Meditation is an ideal way to pray. Using God's word (Lectio Divina) allows me to hear, listen and reflect on what the Lord wants to say to me - to one of his disciples - just like He did two thousand years ago.
The best time to reflect is at the beginning of the day and for at least 15 to 30 minutes.
Prior to going to sleep, read the Mass readings for the next day and then, in the morning, reflect on the Meditation offered on this website.
I hope these daily meditations allow you to know, love and imitate the Lord in a more meaningful way.
God bless you!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Jn 6:30-35 Feeling a little Stiff-necked?

Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter
(Click here for readings)


The crowd said to Jesus: "What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?  What can you do?"

I believe there are two ways to get to Jesus.  The first way is what I call the "positive approach"; that is, to believe and live what the Lord preached and did.  The second way is what I call the "negative approach"; that is, to believe and live what the Pharisees and scribes preached and did. 

If someone is truly searching for God, then all roads lead to Jesus. 

Now I am not sure if one path is less painful than the other, but I am sure the first path will get us to our final destination sooner rather than later. 

You stiffed-neck people.  A few weeks before Christmas (2014), Pope Francis gathered together his closest advisors and subordinates for a late evening chat at the Vatican.  The Holy Father's talk inspired a world famous Harvard professor (and non-Catholic), Gary Hamel, to write about it.  His article, "The 15 diseases of Leadership, according to Pope Francis" is an easy-to-read summary of the Holy Father's talk. 

You may not have heard of Gary Hamel, but The Wall Street Journal ranked Hamel as one of the world's most influential business thinkers, and Forbes magazine has called him "the world's leading expert on business strategy."  Enough said about him. 

So what exactly does it mean to be stiff-necked?  Pope Francis would diagnosis this condition (or disease) as "Mental Petrification." 

It is found in leaders who have a heart of stone; in those who in the course of time lose their interior serenity, alertness and daring, and hide under a pile of papers, turning into paper pushers and not men and women of compassion.  It is dangerous to lose the human sensitivity that enables us to weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice!  Because as time goes on, our hearts grow hard and become incapable of loving all those around us. Being a humane leader means having the sentiments of humility and unselfishness, of detachment and generosity.

Who in their right mind would ever stone someone to death?  Only those who have forgotten how sinful they are. 

So when it came to blasphemy or adultery, did God (Jesus) have a change of heart?  No.  I think He made things clearer:  He who is without sin cast the first stone. 

Apparently, not everyone got the memo.

We all have something to learn.  According to Gary Hamel, to have a healthy organization you need to have healthy leaders.  According to Pope Francis, to have a healthy church you need to have healthy leaders.  The Pope's message to his colleagues was blunt:  leaders are susceptible to an array of debilitating maladies, including arrogance, intolerance, myopia, and pettiness.  When those sicknesses go untreated, the organization itself is debilitated.   

Today's first reading recounts what happened to the first martyr of the Church, St. Stephen.

Stephen said to the people, the elders, and the scribes:  "You stiff-necked always oppose the Holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? ...You received the law as transmitted by angels, but you did not observe it. ...When they heard this, they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him. ...covered their ears, and rushed upon him together.  They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him.

According to Pope Francis, the elders and scribes were covering their ears and grinding their teeth because they were suffering from the disease of thinking they were immortal, immune or downright indispensable.  Gary Hamel summarizes this in the following way:  They were neglecting the need for regular check-ups.  A leadership team which is not self-critical [and/or held accountable], which does not keep up with things, which does not seek to be more fit, [and does not allow for open discussion] is a sick body.   

The Sanhedrin was a sick body.  The Pharisaical party was a sick party.  The Roman Curia is a sick body.  The Pope knows this...and is cleaning house.

Now for us.  Do you think you're well?  Are you a healthy Catholic Christian?

Gary Hamel offers a quick test to see how well you're doing. 

On a scale of 1 to 5, to what extent do I...

  • Feel superior to those who work for me?
  • Demonstrate an imbalance between work and other areas of life?
  • Substitute formality for true human intimacy?
  • Rely too much on plans and not enough on intuition and improvisation?
  • Spend too little time breaking silos and building bridges?
  • Fail to regularly acknowledge the debt I owe to my mentors and to others?
  • Take too much satisfaction in my perks and privileges?
  • Isolate myself from customers and first-level employees?
  • Denigrate the motives and accomplishments of others?
  • Exhibit or encourage undue deference and servility?
  • Put my own success ahead of the success of others?
  • Fail to cultivate a fun and joy-filled work environment?
  • Exhibit selfishness when it comes to sharing rewards and praise?
  • Encourage parochialism rather than community?
  • Behave in ways that seem egocentric to those around me?
As in all health matters, it's good to get a second or third opinion.  Ask your colleagues to score you on the same fifteen items. 

Hamel concludes his article with some wise advice:  "Remember: the responsibilities you hold as a leader, and the influence you have over others' lives, can be profound.  Why not turn to the Pope - a spiritual leader of leaders - for wisdom and advice?"

I couldn't agree more.

1 comment:

  1. Sound advice, to be sure, but I sometimes wonder if this can easily slip into a superficial mode of assessment.

    Consider: my principals will do walk-throughs to see what teachers do in their classes--they could just talk to us, but I guess they don't trust us. They come in for 5 minutes, fill out a form of what they see, and use this to evaluate me as a teacher. What do they want to see? A happy teacher with happy kids doing fun things that somehow qualify as teaching. What do they see in my room? A group of students furrowing their brows as they write an essay in silence. I know that some of them think to themselves that I must be a cold uncaring teacher to subject my students to such dry academic work. Rather, I should connect with my students with group work and games, putting aside these traditional roles of student and teacher. Even though I love my students, and they learn to love me back, one would imagine otherwise until my students score well on their tests and let the world know I'm a nice guy that cares about his students.

    I feel Pope Francis does the same as my principals. In targeting traditional bishops and holy orders, and neglecting the lackluster clerics in Europe, he seems to only see the surface and not what rests within. Cardinal Burke was demoted, and the recent bishop in Kansas was also demoted. Why? Because they seemed cold and out of touch with the new pastoral trends--and they had sympathy for traditional Catholic communities. And yet they were quite effective as leaders, kind holy men, and created strong Catholic communities.

    Meanwhile, Cardinal Casper and the other media darlings in the German church impose their secular morality and skepticism on the Church and suffer no rebukes. Perhaps they kiss more babies in front of a camera and host more public dialogues with Muslims and atheists. They're "humble" enough to question church teachings and cave to popular opinion. All the while, their parishes shrink to nothing and Europe has now become mission territory.

    No, I disagree with these leadership gurus--even if one happens to be our pope. They're making the wrong analogies and promoting a shallow kind of leadership. It's more than an image of holiness; it's real holiness.


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