|Ateneo de Manila's Strategic Planning Conference|
Jer 23:1-6; Psalm 23; Eph 2:13-18
Jeremiah, who lived from 627-586 BC, was called at the early age of 23 to the prophetic office. He prophesied at the most critical period in the history of Judah. The 'shepherds' such as the kings, priests and people were more interested in politics than with Yahweh, their God. Since they were subject to Babylon in 700 BC, they had to pay an annual tax to them, and so they would like to rebel against Babylon, through the help of Egypt. Abuses in the temple and in the city was rampant. Jeremiah opposed them predicting that it would only bring about the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of its people to Babylon. So he spoke fearlessly against the disloyalty of the Chosen People of God. In the first reading, Jeremiah criticized the 'shepherds' or the leaders of the people of Judah. Their neglect of the flock given into their care and their neglect of God was bringing exile on their people.
The Gospel today also spoke about the effects of weak leadership when Jesus saw that they were like 'sheep without a shepherd.' They needed someone to teach them about God's love and His interest in their eternal welfare. During Jesus' time, they had no one to give them the news of forgiveness and hope. They were simple unlettered villagers. No one but the local rabbis were there to teach them, but they too were not every educated at that time. The great theologians were all in Jerusalam were they got the respect, popularity and financial reward they felt they were entitled.
In situations of weak leadership, today's Sunday readings speak about hope. God, in the first reading, promised to gather back those who were scattered under the tutelage of a good shepherd. The Gospel now tells us about its fulfillment, with Jesus as the Good Shepherd who finally responds to the needs of those who wanted to listen to the word of God. The effect of which is the arrival of the Kingdom of peace which St. Paul writes to the Ephesians. The second reading therefore tells us about who are now entrusted to become good shepherds in the establishment of the Kingdom of Peace.
Obviously, St. Paul articulates that we are today's shepherds. Because of our baptism, we are now called to tend to the flock the Lord has entrusted to us: our families, our students, our co-workers in our offices, even our circle of friends. We shepherd one another. We are responsible for each other's formation.
How do we go about good leadership today? Allow me to share a simple formula: Know where we are and where we want to go, and see how to get there.
First, where we are means knowing our context and the skills we have, not what we don't have. It is 2012, we are in the digital age. People use social media to connect to one another. We know we can write well, and we have a distinct interest. For example, people in the world uses Facebook, and we know we can write or share our love for cooking healthy food.
Second, where we want to go means stating clearly and concretely our goals. So you want to help people acquire a healthy lifestyle by eating the right food.
Finally, you decide how to get there by devising the strategy or the methodology to fulfill your goal. Thus, knowing your present context, you began a blog that is shared on Facebook.
After some time, you find that your posts are shared by many followers, and they give you feedback about how you have helped them. In your own way, you are able to be a good shepherd to many people in cyberspace. Pope Benedict XVI called all Catholics to this new mission in his letter in 2010 for the World Communications Day.
We pray that we become creative in tendering the flock that the Lord has given us.