Are You Qualified?

By Barbara Mayer, OSB  

Editor's note: Sisters from Mount St. Scholastica write a weekly column titled "View from the Mount" for our hometown newspaper, the Atchison Globe. This column appeared in the July 23, 2016, edition of the Globe.

Sister Barbara Ann MayerSeveral years ago, the newsletter of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Meeteetse, Wyoming, published an assessment by an imaginary management firm that gave a battery of tests and personal interviews to the 12 men that Jesus had chosen for management positions in his new organization. The firm found that all but one lacked what was needed to lead this company and recommended that Jesus look further for his team. 

The report said: “Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew has absolutely no qualities of leadership. The two brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, place personal interest above company loyalty. Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale. We feel that it is our duty to tell you that Matthew has been black-listed by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau. James, son of Alpheus, and Thaddaeus definitely have radical leanings, and they bother registered a high score on the manic-depressive scale. 

“One of the candidates, however, shows great potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen business mind, and has contacts in high places. He is highly motivated and responsible. We recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller and right-hand man.”

Thank goodness Jesus did not consult this management firm to pick his 12 apostles. They would all (except Judas) have been disqualified immediately. It made me reflect on many of our church leaders today. Would they pass the test?

Take Pope Francis. Some Catholics feel he is not adhering to some of the teachings of the Church, especially in regard to morality and divorce and remarriage. They do not approve of his leniency toward sinners. Yet he is reinstating the reforms of Vatican II and emphasizing Catholic social teaching. He is breathing new life into the Church and gaining the respect of people around the world for his mercy and concern for the poor. 

Or take your local pastor. Some of the members may criticize him or her for not preaching strongly enough against certain issues they deem essential. Others may disapprove of the pastor’s tendency to drink too much or overindulge in eating or spending money. Yet the pastor may be a person of prayer and compassion who is doing the best he or she can with human weaknesses and limitations.

We ought to beware of religious leaders who are overly pious, ostentatious, or slick. We need women and men who are human, understanding, and working on their own conversion. We want them to be pastoral and close enough to their sheep “to smell like their sheep,” as Pope Francis puts it. Just as Jesus did not pick perfect apostles, we should not expect perfect bishops and pastors. 

If Peter who denied Jesus three times was appointed the first pope, and James and John who vied for high places could be martyrs for their faith, and Thomas who doubted the resurrection could be welcomed to touch Jesus’ wounds and not be condemned, then there is hope for all of us. The apostles were imperfect like the rest of humankind, yet they were entrusted by Jesus to start his Church. Church leaders today need our prayers and encouragement to be what God has called them to be, ministers of forgiveness and reconciliation.