Sunday, February 12, 2017

Confidence and Character

I’m pleased to let you know that a collection of my homilies has been published by WestBow Press. The book, titled A Spirituality for Sunday People, can be ordered in print or as an ebook, from Barnes and Noble, and of course

In the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus employed four antitheses (“you have heard... but I say”) to emphasize the importance of attitude over legality. And Jesus used a bit of middle eastern hyperbole to make his point. Our attitudes create our behaviors. For example: “you have heard that it was said, you shall not murder; but I say to you: you shall not be angry.” Why? Because a bad attitude, anger or resentment, can seethe into bad behavior, verbal or even worse, physical abuse. Discipleship with Jesus calls for a change of heart, a change of attitude, thinking and feeling positively, not negatively.
Jesus in a Storm at Sea by Rembrandt

Jesus is our true wisdom. He is our exemplar, our guide about how to live.

But who is Jesus.  He is one with God, a God-man. God became one of us so that we could become like God. He experienced hunger, joy, friendship, disappointment, loneliness and death.  He was a rabbi, a teacher, a prophet, a wonder worker, eventually crucified but then raised up and transfigured into a new kind of spiritual embodiment. And the risen Christ is alive in our midst. And we too are alive with God's life and favor.

Jesus is indeed our guide, our leader. He communicated purpose through words, signs and wonders in a way that galvanized, energized and excited people. He generated trust among his disciples which was the glue that bound them together in commitments. He inspired hope in the crowds, with a clear vision of the future, life in relationship with God forever.  Finally, Jesus converted purpose and vision into action through his death and resurrection.

Matthew 23:10 advises, in so many words there is only one master, one messiah, one life-leader: Jesus Christ. This Jesus calls each one of us to be leaders in our own situations. Yes, to be called by God to influence others, that's what leadership is all about, is an enormous privilege, but it carries with it great responsibility.

We have to possess two things: confidence and character. Not only confidence in ourselves but first and foremost confidence in God. He is our shield, our strength and our guide.

We have to be men and women of character. If you look at the leadership failures in this country in the last 100 years, I will guess you will find 99 percent were failures in character. Leadership involves ethics, right and wrong, a sense of responsibility, a value system, integrity. And that is why character counts. 

The quality of our life and our soul’s destiny will be measured by our character.

And so our prayer might be:

God, help me to lead a life of integrity, authenticity, humility and focus. Help me to have a similar concern for others as Jesus had for us. Help me to avoid passing superficial judgments on other people. Give me wisdom and sensitivity towards those who are struggling with life. Help me to fix my eyes on our true wisdom, Jesus Christ, and to become like Jesus for others, men and women of confidence and character.

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