The second reading for the Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Hebrews refers to Deuteronomy 17:15. “You may set over you a king whom the NAME, your God, will choose. Someone from among your own kindred you may set over you as king….” This is very good advice when choosing a leader. He should be like those he leads. Machiavelli said as much in, “The Prince.” Machiavelli tells the prince how the first thing to do when taking a province is to join the people and learn their ways. Christ does this when he comes to earth and becomes like us.
Leviticus 10 has the story of Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu. Sons of Aaron, they are priests and have the authority to offer sacrifices. They offer strange fire to God. For this, God sends fire to consume them. Hebrew has a rule called “Kal Vahomer,” (Light and heavy.) If something applies to a lighter case, it applies more to a heavier one. If Nadab and Abihu are priests and God consumes them for offering strange fire, how much more will he consume those who are not priests but claim to represent God?
Greek has three words for “Priest,” “Presbyter,” “Episcopal,” and “Hierarch.” St. Paul uses the third. This translates the Hebrew, “Cohen,” and means an official. Taking on such a role is a weighty decision and one should make sure that is their calling, vocation, profession, before taking it on. A person can be part of a hierarchy and not be religious. The new priest is the head of the corporation, the head of the business.
If we claim the profession of priest, or any vocation, and we are not called to that vocation, we rob God in two ways. First, we claim a vocation that is not ours. Second, we fail to complete our vocation, being too busy trying to be someone we are not. How do we know we have this vocation?
St. Ignatius of Antioch tells us, “As therefore Kyrie did nothing without the Father, being united to Him, neither by Himself nor by the apostles, so neither do anything without the bishop and presbyters. Neither endeavor that anything appear reasonable and proper to yourselves apart; but coming together into the same place, let there be one prayer, one supplication, one mind, one hope, in love and in joy undefiled.”
As with any organization, there must be a leader. When we do anything, we speak with the authority of the Bishop. The Bishop has subordinates, so we can go to the subordinates to find the will of the Bishop.
“Let the presbyters be compassionate and merciful to all, bringing back those that wander, visiting all the sick, and not neglecting the widow, the orphan, or the poor, but always
providing for that which is becoming in the sight of God and man; abstaining from wrath, respecting people, and unjust judgment; keeping far off from all desire, not quickly crediting an evil report against any one, not severe in judgment, as knowing that we are all under a debt of deviation.” Polycarp, Philippians, chapter 6
Another test of all leaders is that they are compassionate of their charges, being an example to those who wander, and therefore bringing them back. They visit the sick and the widow. They care for the poor.
The Gospel shows what leadership is. True leaders lead from the front. Today’s leaders lead from behind. They like to be managers. They plan, organize, staff, and control their businesses. They do not lead. They are not from the poor and disenfranchised, nor do they claim to be. The idea is degrading.Most management schools do not even offer classes in leadership, and when they do, the classes are classes in sales, not leadership. These schools focus on controllorship, a fancy word for accounting, running their business by the numbers. Their business is their busy ness, their employees cogs in the wheel of the business, not real human beings. Knowing all about controllorship, and not about people, they sit in their offices and crunch numbers.
The Gospel reading is of Bar Timaeus. “Timaeus,” has meaning in Hebrew and Greek. In Hebrew, it means “innocence,” and “Simplicity.” The Greek, means “Value.” This son of innocence and simplicity, or son of value calls out for pity. Jesus, comes from the poor and outcast so can understand his plight. He engages in what management schools today call, “Management by Walking Around.” Unlike managers of today, or his day, his concern is people. Therefore, he walks around and when he sees suffering, he acts. St. Francis learned from Jesus and did the same when he met the leper in the road.
The crowd, acting like most crowds, then and today, prevent the blind man from coming to Jesus. When Jesus calls the man, they about face, just like they, and we, do between Palm Sunday and Good Friday. They are poor, but they are not of the same as Bar Timaeus. They do not see each other as part of the same family. Jesus is the just king, Melchi Tzadik, Melchizedek. Deuteronomy 16:20 states, “Tzadik, Tzadik, you will run after.” The first “Tzadik” refers to charity, as a community, and the second to justice. Justice means seeing a piece of ourselves, our family in our neighbors.
The question before us? “Do we see in the least of our brothers, family, a piece of ourselves, or strangers? In preaching to others, do we offer strange fire to God? The Hebrew word for “Fire,” and for “Manhood,” is “Ish.” Do we offer strange manhood to God, or do we offer ourselves, as ourselves? God greets fire with fire, and the last fire is never ending.