There are words flying around everywhere today. Everyone is competing to have their voice heard and to convince you to listen to their opinions. Perhaps there is nothing more prominent in our world today than the drive to communicate. Today we not only have phones and televisions but we have tweets on twitter and blogs in cyberspace, we have internet news sites, we have cyber cafes where people chat and exchange opinions, we have social networking sites that boast of thousands of “friends”, we have talking heads on cable networks and constant e-mail bombardment by groups that want to advance their agendas. Everyone wants to tell us how to think and involve us in some sort of “group-think” that involves a certain agenda. So many voices crying out, so many words being exchanged, so many ideas being advanced, so many people claiming to have a truth that needs to be heard. Young people today are constantly texting, tweeting, blogging, IMing or some other form of communication. There is a lot of communication but very little communion.
The communication today does not often seek a higher truth. It seems like much of the communication that I receive is an expression of individual opinion and a desire to control another person and meet an individual need. It is not driven by the desire to know and live in the truth and allow that truth to draw us together into communion but is rather too often a demand for some individual to be acknowledged and for someone to do something that they want done. Our truths are relative and our viewpoints are subjective.
It would be easy to fall into a sort of information fatigue, to align ourselves with some interest group and to allow someone to think for us. Who is going to tell me who I am, what I am supposed to think and how then I am to act in the world? What words are going to be dominant in my life and form my opinions and experience of the world? What leader will I follow? What is the motivation for my following this leader?
Today the apostles are confronted by the Jewish Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was meant to be guided by the Word of God and to help lead the people according to God’s Word and law. However it seems that the Sanhedrin in those days had been co-opted by the Roman authorities and by the ideas of peaceful governance. They want the apostles to be quiet and quit preaching the Words of Jesus and the gospel of his resurrection. They use their authority to try to quiet the apostolic witness and to protect their power base. The apostles counter the appeal of the Sanhedrin to authority with a greater authority that defines the life of the Church, “We must obey God rather than men….We are witnesses of these things, as is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.” (Acts 5,29.32) Our identity as disciples of Jesus Christ and members of the Church require that we seek to discern the truth and act in love. We are called to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit in our lives and obey the Word of God and his divine law of love.
In the gospel of John, chapter 21, it is clear that Peter is exercising a leadership role among the apostles. He takes them all fishing but they return from a long night with empty nets. The risen Jesus meets them on the shore in the morning but they do not at first recognize him until they hear his voice and heed his commands. Then their nets are filled and they recognize that, “It is the Lord.” Jesus shares Eucharist with them and then takes Peter on a little walk and teaches him the true source of his authority and leadership – his love for Jesus. Peter is to lead the Church by loving the Lord Jesus and following where he leads him even if it is not what he wants to do. True leadership in the Church is to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd Jesus, loving the Lord and then making that voice of Jesus and his words and teachings available to all. The shepherd who leads in the manner of the Good Shepherd must lead in love. The Good Shepherd loves his sheep and the sheep know and follow his voice.
The Church must be constantly reminded that true leadership flows from love and truth that is exercised in the Spirit of the Risen Lord and not from fear in protecting a power base or looking after personal interests. It continues to be true today that we must obey God and not men even if that means suffering for the truth or even losing some membership. The Church is not called to become conformed to the world but rather to be transformed and conformed to Christ, the Good Shepherd who leads his sheep in love to new life through transformation in the Spirit. If we obey the truth and live in love we will always have the Holy Spirit to guide us. There we will find the true words of life that not only communicate but lead to a true communion in love.