Servant Leadership

A guest post by Esmey Herscovitch RSCJ on the Liturgy for the 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time – year B – 21st October 2018

As we begin we remember that we are on Aboriginal land and we acknowledge the lives of those who have gone before us on this land. On 26th October this week we remember the handing back of Uluru to the traditional owners. [Find out more here]

Today we are hearing about the request for honour and status on the part of James and John and the consequent indignation on the part of the other apostles.  It seems that we human beings need constant reminders that our call is to servant leadership, not a call to be on top, or first or having a place of status or honour.

One of the many significant religious paintings in recent years is, in my opinion, this one by Sieger Koder, which shows Jesus washing the feet of Peter.  We do not see the face of Jesus in this except his reflection in the dirty water.  Here we have a perfect illustration of a leader who serves, and Jesus here and in today’s gospel reading is trying to teach us that leadership is about service, not about having status or power or privilege. Pope Francis is a very real example of a leader who serves. Servant leadership will also involve putting ourselves on the line as did Oscar Romero who was canonised recently.  He did drink the cup, was baptised i.e. overwhelmed with suffering, as was the suffering servant in the first reading of our liturgy today, and as Jesus was.   Suffering on the part of Jesus enables us to face our suffering more serenely, knowing that we are not alone in the experience. Certainly the gospel calls challenge us in ways that are very much in opposition to what human nature craves.

Mary’s Contemplative Leadership

Have you ever heard of Mater Admirabilis? Her feast day is on 20 October.

I got to know this well-loved image of Mary when I worked with the Religious of the Sacred Heart. If you visit a Sacred Heart school, you will surely find a version of this image somewhere on campus. If not, just ask “where’s Mater?”

You can read the story of how this image came into being, and how she got her name here.

Mater Admirabilis speaks to me of Mary’s contemplative leadership, of her attentive listening and active response to God’s call, as I explain here. She seems an appropriate patron for the listening stage of the preparation for the Plenary Council of the Catholic Church in Australia in 2020.

Mother Mary, Most Admirable of Disciples,

help us to listen attentively to God’s deep desires for us

and to respond whole-heartedly!


Sandie Cornish

Holy Week – It’s Not Over Yet

Guest post by Esmey Herscovitch RSCJ for Holy Week.

There is a little book by Brendan Lovett entitled It’s Not Over Yet … Christological Reflections on Holy Week.

At this time of Holy Week we are aware of the experiences of Jesus some two thousand years ago – experiences of fickleness, infidelity, ridicule, mockery, humiliation, betrayal, violence, physical and mental anguish and pain.

In St Mark’s Gospel the graphic words in chapter 14 verse 33: “And a sudden fear came over him, and great distress… and he said to them ‘my soul is sorrowful to the point of death'” capture those experiences in some way, but as we look at what is happening to the Rohingya people, the peoples of Congo, Yemen, Syria and so many other places as well as to the physical world we can get an inkling of what Jesus also experienced.

We reflect that what is done to the least of people is done to Jesus so Jesus continues his passion in our world today – certainly “it’s not over yet”.

Palm Sunday Peace March

A March for Justice or Peace?

I’m not sure exactly when the Palm Sunday Peace March in my city began to be rebranded as a rally for justice. This year the theme is justice for refugees. Asylum seekers and refugees are in desperate need of a more just and compassionate response from our government, so I want to participate to show my support. But to me this is not the same as a peace march.

It is more than thirty years since my first Palm Sunday Peace March. No, my parents didn’t take me along as a baby. I was a teenager and went with Christian peace activists who I met at university. My parents were not amused.

I remember more skipping, dancing and singing than actual marching. Fist-waving, shouting and banners against the nuclear policy known as Mutually Assured Destruction featured too. But not so much among the faith-based groups.

You may say that my first Palm Sunday Peace March, and the many peace marches since, have changed… not very much at all. But they did change me. Slowly, and more deeply over time.

Learning About Peace

At first it was just exciting to be with many Christians of different kinds who also believed that the non-violent witness of Jesus continued to call us to act for peace in the world. I began to understand more deeply the need for faith to be active, public and communal, and not just personal and devotional. Over time I began to appreciate the complexity of the dynamic interrelationship between justice and peace within one’s own self, in relationships with others, and in relationships at different levels of social aggregation. I began to observe how anger against, and love for, are very different beasts. Anger tends to spread anger and love tends to spread love. I noticed that people – including me – aren’t always good at spotting the difference between righteous rage and self-righteousness in themselves! We are so much like the original Palm Sunday crowd who gave the simple, non-violent Jesus a hero’s welcome to Jerusalem – and a week later shouted ‘crucify him’.

Marching on Palm Sunday

Jesus did not win a political campaign for justice. The victory of the Prince of Peace was in being faithful to the end, refusing to give in to the temptation of violence, ending the reign of death and reconciling us with God. His was the victory of self-emptying love. When Christians march on Palm Sunday we know where the journey leads. The things that are worth dying – and living – for cannot be attained through killing or violence. Peace comes through right relationships among people, with God, and with the whole of creation. Justice for asylum seekers and refugees is one part of that. A peace march remembers the other parts too. The Kingdom of God that Jesus announced is one of justice, peace and joy in the Lord.

People of all faiths and none will be at the rally for justice for refugees, and that is good. But for me, as a Christian, the point of marching on Palm Sunday will always be about peace.

Sandie Cornish