Matthew 15:1-2, 10-14 (alternate reading for the day)
Today’s readings (using the alternate Gospel for the date) pose the very human question of how to discern God’s will in the context of our leadership. Through the drama played out in the reading from Numbers, and the dialogue of Jesus with his disciples after confronting the Pharisees and Scribes, we see what a delicate balance may be required to affirm our obedience to God’s will in our community living.
Miriam, Aaron and Moses all shared in the leadership of the people of Israel as they came out of Egypt and sought out the promised land. Clearly, by reason of age, Moses being the youngest, there was a natural "authority" in the ranking by age. The people would have expected Aaron and Miriam to lead the way…but God favored Moses, "face to face I speak to him".
I am reminded of our leadership in the religious life. We choose our leadership after a discernment process. Those who are entrusted with the responsibility of leadership are not only the ones with age or education to recommend them. We believe that God brings forth the leadership we will require by asking us to consider the heart of the individual. We look for leadership which listens to the Lord in prayer, which loves the fraternity of the membership, and which is ready to sacrifice personal prestige for the good of the mission of the Province.
Indeed, in the dialogue given us in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus criticizes the recognized teachers and spokespersons of the Jewish community. They had questioned him about his followers and their not adhering to the ritual laws for purity. Jesus reminds his disciples that the "teaching" –what comes out of the mouth– contaminates the purity of the believers more than the absence of ritual. In so saying, Jesus has questioned the use of the teaching authority of the elders, but not without holding up the greater virtue, that his followers must use their authority with responsibility.
In our country, today, we meet up with the dreaded "judgment day" of fiscal responsibility. We have been listening to the "teachings" of our leadership, daily the news coverage has shown us how divided our leadership has become regarding some of the fundamental values of human life and a just society. Does this political rhetoric merit the judgment of Jesus? Has our national leadership responded to the values that it so often calls the Christian foundations of our country? Would Jesus recognize his teachings in the political debate we have just been through?
Fr. Arthur Carrillo, C.P. is the director of the Office of Mission Effectiveness for Holy Cross Province. He lives in Chicago, Illinois.