Is your authority building up, or tearing down? Presenting five things that Jesus teaches about leadership, used as an examination of conscience, in this week’s Gospel reflection.

Father Ian VanHeusen presents a spiritual exercise on the Mass readings from the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Matthew 23:1-12, wherein Jesus describes the hypocrisy of the Pharisees as a lesson for His disciples about servant-leadership.


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We invite you to watch Father’s video, then prayerfully read the Gospel and reflection. We pray that this might help you in your apostolate, your family, your classroom, or personally… to prepare for and more deeply experience Sunday’s Mass, and to better integrate the Sacrament and the readings into your daily life.

Five things Jesus teaches about leadership:

1. We lead by example. Our actions speak louder than our words.


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2. We must fight the devil of self-esteem.

3. Good leaders don’t draw attention to themselves.

4. Good leaders don’t want fancy titles.

5. Leadership is about service.

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew (23:1-12)

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’ As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

The Gospel of the Lord

Spiritual Exercise

1. Examine your conscience in light of this week’s gospel. When you’re in a position of authority, do you lord it over others, or are you more gentle, placing the heaviest burdens on yourself?

2. Is God your ultimate authority? How ordered is your hierarchy of leadership? Do you give more credence to the world, to fashions, money, politics, your boss, your possessions, than to God? Do you remember Whom you serve, when you give instructions or set an example for those underneath you?

3. Where is your pride in your accomplishments? Is it for the sake of glorifying God and serving others, or does your ego inflate for its own sake through your work and influence over others?

Take these questions to quiet prayer with Our Lord. Ask Him to purify your intentions and help you to grow in the virtues of His five leadership lessons above.

Photo credit: Jakob Owens / unsplash