Summary: More on Servant leadership from the examples of James and John


Throughout history, Christian writers like St. John Chrysostom, the archbishop of Constantinople, have noted the transformation of James and John in their growth into servant leaders; Servant Leadership involves phases:

1). Atheist or Agnostic— Servant leadership is simply another ploy by management to manipulate people for their own gain. These workers are generally angry and have been deeply wounded by past work experiences.

E.g. The politicking and maneuvering for favors and special privileges by James and John whom even got their mother to represent them.

Notice that Jesus resists the demand that he give the brothers whatever they ask.

Little did they know that when Jesus would enter into his kingdom, there would be two thieves, hanging on crosses, one on his right and one on his left.

Actually, no matter what your place in heaven is, everybody there is associated with the Lord in his prerogative of judging the world, and so the experience will be “as if” you were seated at his right or left.

2). “Seeker” is the next phase of servant leadership: They believe that servant leadership is true in concept, but they want to see if it is real in application.

There is a beautiful story about the British author Graham Greene. Greene once waited two and a half years for a 15-minute appointment with the Roman Catholic Mystic Padre Pio, who resided in an Italian monastery. Padre Pio was reputed to be “a living Saint” and bore on his body the “stigmata” or the wounds of Christ.

On the day Greene was due to meet with the revered mystic, Greene first attended a Mass where Padre Pio officiated. Their appointment was to begin immediately after the Mass. However, when the Mass was over, instead of keeping this much awaited appointment, Greene left the church, headed to the airport and flew directly back to London.

When asked why he broke the appointment he had waited on for two and a half years, Greene said, “I was not ready for the manner in which that man could change my life.”

The Rev. Marek Zabriskie writes, “May I suggest that this is where many of us are? i.e. I was not ready for the manner in which that man could change my life.”

That man, of course, is Jesus. He wants to make something magnificent out of our lives by servant leadership.

3). This leads to the third stage of servant leadership, the “Disciple” --These people are approaching a stage where their walk and talk are nearly congruent.

They are able to teach servant leadership to others, and people seek them out.

These are not matters simply of leadership style or behaviors; they are aspects of the leaders’ being as well as action. This is generally the sticking point in formation discussions: How can we (and is it even appropriate for non-religious people to) attempt to form another’s being? The truth is, our beings are shaped continuously by all our thoughts and actions. What one does habitually not only shapes behavior, they also produce “internal goods” in the person; that is, they shape the being of the persons engaging in those practices.

The practice of virtue makes us virtuous as a quality of our being that will sustain us and help us to overcome the harms, dangers, temptations and distractions which we encounter.

e.g. Look at the transformation of James and John into disciples in servant leadership-- Jesus asked James and John, “Are you willing to give your all, as I am giving my all, to see my kingdom established?”

To their credit, they answered, “We are able.”

Servant leadership also has prophetic and healing dimensions, which are meant to inspire greatness, including doing great things; Jesus says, “whoever wishes to be “great” among you will be your servant.” True greatness is to give up seeking conventional power as the primary motivator and to turn oneself in the servants of their fellow human beings.

Greatness is magnanimity, the aspiration of the spirit to great things; a magnanimous leader “hungers for grand and noble possibilities, he or she thirsts for what is best.” Humility in practice grounds leaders and their visions, enabling them to be servants and partners to those who strive with them to achieve great things; magnanimity reflects our call to be co-creators with God and humility to our dependence on God.

Lastly, servant leadership is also sacrificial involving vicarious atonement; that one person can make amends or bear the sin of another so as to remove the guilt of the second, which is what our First Reading teaches from Isaiah 53:10-11, where the word servant refers to the “Suffering Servant” and our Gospel from Mark 10:35-45, where we hear that God purchased his people from slavery in sin by the price of Christ’s own life. This is what reparation means, and is the central message of Fatima: to pray and make sacrifices (reparation) so people will be converted and not fall into hell. The first secret of Fatima was the vision of hell.

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