In today's gospel Jesus teaches us two important lessons: 1) The importance of respecting legitimate authority, even when it is bad authority, and 2) The duty of anyone in authority to lead by example.

He says: "the Pharisees occupy the seat of Moses, and so you must obey what they command you." Sometimes it is not easy to obey, especially when the command of authority goes against our wishes and desires. This can be the case even when we have to listen to good leaders. It is much harder to obey when we also perceive the authority to be week and not exemplary. People have left the Church because of unfortunate weaknesses within its leadership. Yet from today's gospel we learn that the weakness of authority is no licence for disobedience. What Jesus told those he had given authority remains valid: "He who listens to you listens to me, and he who listens to me listens to the one who sent me."

While the faults of Church leaders to not give permission to the flock to disobey or to leave the Church, at the same time the leadership must take as most serious the importance of setting good example. We recall the serious warning of Jesus about leaders who lead astray those under their care. Jesus said that it would be better for a such a person to be thrown in the sea with a millstone around the neck. We need to bear in mind that scandal can wreck irreparable damage to the Church or any other institution for that matter, and that there is nothing as effective in drawing new members to it as good example by the leaders and the old members.
Reflection on the Readings
22 March 2011