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We need shepherd leaders not dictators

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Rev. Fr. John Damian

Few days from now, precisely on May 29, 2019 Nigeria will be inaugurating her new leaders. And from all indications, President Muhammadu Buhari will be given the grace of a second term.

The expectation of Nigerians is so high. Their expectations are not far removed from divine expectation, because to whom much is given much is expected.

Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. Today, we are celebrating Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Our Lord Jesus Christ happens to be the best leader the world has ever known. He is a leader with a difference. He is in fact, the Leader of leaders, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Today’s readings, especially the gospel of John 10:27-30 presents our Lord Jesus Christ as the Shepherd Leader.

Who is a Shepherd Leader? What are the characteristics of a Shepherd leader? Do we have shepherd leaders in the world today? Where can we find shepherd leaders? Our Lord Jesus Christ is not just a Shepherd leader, He is also the Master of shepherd Leaders. Through His words and actions, He has taught us what it takes to be a Shepherd Leader. These are some of the qualities of a Shepherd Leader as recorded in today’s gospel reading:

• A shepherd leader commands authority: “My Sheep hear my voice.” The sheep can only hear a voice that is loud and clear. Most leaders have no voice. They hardly communicate with their subjects. Most of our leaders hardly listen to their subjects’ opinions.

A leader that does not communicate with his or her subjects will end up becoming a dictator. A shepherd leader must communicate in a language that the flocks can easily hear and understand.

• A shepherd leader must know his subjects: Jesus said, “…I know them.” Most leaders hardly recognise their subjects. Some leaders hardly visit their subjects except during campaigns. Pope Francis told his priests and bishops to “be shepherds with the smell of sheep.” A shepherd leader must not just know his flocks, but must also mingle with them and know their challenges.

• A Shepherd Leader must have followers: “…and they follow me.” A leader without followers is like a teacher without students, or even a doctor without a patient.

• A shepherd Leader must have something to offer his flock: Jesus said, “I give them eternal life.” Any leader that has nothing to offer his followers is not worthy of that title. People must benefit from their leaders.

• A Shepherd leader must protect his flocks: “…they shall not perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.” The security and protection of lives and properties is the paramount responsibility of a shepherd leader. The worst leader is one who cannot protect the lives of his subjects.

• A Shepherd Leader must be loyal to higher authority: Jesus said, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” A good leader must not neglect his predecessors. A tree cannot make a forest. Moreover, two good heads are better than one.

• A Shepherd Leader must be in connection with God: Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” Any leader that fails to recognise God is bound to fail. Jesus told His followers: “He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5). Our leaders need God in their governance, for no one governs well without God.

As we prepare for the inauguration of our leaders on May 29th, we pray for God-fearing and shepherd leaders. HAPPY GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY! From Rev. Fr. John Damian Adizie, OCD.


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