If you missed the introduction and first mystery, you can find that article here: http://blog.euphemos.com/2016/12/15/leadership-lessons-in-the-luminous-mysteries-baptism-in-the-jordan/.
The second mystery is here http://blog.euphemos.com/2016/12/22/leadership-lessons-in-the-luminous-mysteries-wedding-at-cana/.
The fourth mystery is here http://blog.euphemos.com/2017/01/05/leadership-lessons-in-the-luminous-mysteries-the-transfiguration/.
Institution of the Eucharist
The story, for those unfamiliar: The Jews celebrated a feast called Passover to remember the time that they were “passed over” and spared from the death that visited their Egyptian captors. As a result of this event, their ancestors were freed from slavery, then wandered about the wilderness for 40 years before settling down and experiencing their glory days of self-rule and prosperity. Jesus gets his disciples together to celebrate it a bit early in the year that he dies. They borrow a room, and he welcomes them to the feast by taking the role of the lowest servant to wash their feet (also a part of ordination ceremonies). His lead disciple, Peter, tries to decline the washing, is reprimanded, “gets it”, and concedes gracefully, even suggesting his head and hands should be washed also. They celebrate the feast together, and Jesus announces that he’s changed the feast for them, and that they should celebrate it from now on remembering him. He declares that the bread and wine they consume are his body and his blood. Jesus instructs them to love one another as he’s loved them. He prays for unity among his followers, then is lead away captive to suffer and die.
See a need, and meet it
Above all, this mystery offers another example of how a leader looks for needs, and meets them.
Foot washing was a routine part of hospitality, but since Jesus and his closest companions are borrowing a room, and there are apparently no servants at hand, this traditional (and practical – people reclined horizontally to eat, so feet were near your neighbor’s upper body) practice is overlooked. Seeing the need, Jesus doesn’t hesitate to fill it, even though it is beneath his dignity.
A leader looks for practical needs, and fills them.
Jesus knows his imminent death will present incredible challenges to these 11 men who would assume leadership, and carry on his legacy. He offers a fresh perspective and meaning to a familiar ritual feast as a source of strength for the future. Knowing they will not have access to him in the same way as before his departure, he empowers them to meet this need, encouraging them to continue this ritual after his departure.
Jesus not only sees his disciples’ immediate need, and meets it, but also foresees and makes provision for their future need.
A leader looks for both immediate and future needs, and strives to meet them. The leader provides a fish for the moment, and teaches their team (and successors) how to fish for the future. No need is too mundane (foot washing) or too sublime (mystical ritual of presence) – the leader is willing to fulfill both.
Plan for succession
Although foot washing was a social ritual, it was also a religious ritual. The process of ordination to the Levitical priesthood included washing all over once (and hands and feet repeatedly thereafter), anointing with oil on the head, and with blood on the head (ear), hand (thumb), and foot (big toe). This same pattern of head/hand/foot anointing was applied to cleansing rituals, such as that for a leper. (Exodus 29; Leviticus 8; Numbers 8; etc.) Peter gets it, recognizing that this is not only (although it is that) a social ritual and example of humility, but a sacred ritual of cleansing and of being set apart for service to God on behalf of others, and others on behalf of God.
Like Jesus, a leader needs to both explicitly (Jesus instructs his disciples to follow his example in the ritual meal and washing), and implicitly (the reference to the ordination ritual that only Peter seems to get), plan for succession. The leader needs to set an example that can be followed, but can’t simply assume that successors will “get it” – expectations need to be clearly and explicitly communicated. Furthermore, Jesus shows how an outgoing leader presents themselves as a servant to their successor(s). Even in this case, where the outgoing leader will assume a significantly greater role and responsibility, the leader is the servant of their successor in matters proper to the successor’s role.
Show sincere affection
In addition to a spirit of humility, Jesus shows sincere affection for his followers. He mentions that he has been “eager” to celebrate this feast with them, and discusses that they should love one another to the same superlative degree that he has loved them. He is not manipulating them with cheap compliments, but sincerely affectionate and loving towards them. His love is not shallow and self-serving, but deep and sacrificial.
As leaders, this is challenging. How do we hold and express this deep and sacrificial love for our teams? How do we do so without seeming creepy? 🙂
Jesus doesn’t seem to worry about that…
This is my flesh… this is my blood… that definitely borders on creepy.
Jesus isn’t worried about this because he slowly built up a relationship with these people. He called them from their previous work and relationships, and, over a period of approximately three years, taught them to trust him by demonstrating his character and deep concern. By the time of the institution of the Eucharist, they’re ready, and it isn’t creepy at all.
I can’t just jump into this. It takes time and consistency for this love to develop in my own heart, and to build the trust that makes an authentic expression of that love appropriate and acceptable, even in a professional environment.
Jesus established a social network that’s endured for nearly two thousand years, and his life and teachings are seemingly inexhaustible. All in all, I know I’ve barely begun to scratch the surface of the lessons Jesus presents as I strive to grow as a leader. I’ve omitted so many important topics (e.g. how he values and encourages unity), and done poor service to even those I’ve attempted to consider.
I’ve wandered some from my original attempt to present these lessons in a matter more palatable to an irreligious, agnostic, or atheistic audience, and for that I beg your pardon.
In any case, all in all, I hope you’ve found some tidbits of value in these articles, and are inspired to consider Jesus’s lessons on leadership for yourself.
- The Light of the World – Epiphany
- Chosen if we so choose – Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)