Recently I attended a meeting where we were asked to share memories of a friend and colleague who had died after a very short illness at the end of last year. Michael was a man whom I had not known for terribly long, but during our friendship he made a lasting impression upon me. He had led a fascinating life of ministry in the church with many twists and turns, but at his heart was a pastor of quiet leadership. Dag Hammarskjold is quoted as having said, “The humility that comes from others having faith in you…” The quote is incomplete, yet relentless with its reminder that others have faith in us. There is an overwhelming humility in receiving faith, and the …
How should we complete that sentence? People place a vote of faith in us and that stirs a deep humility within us as we are all too aware of our own human limitations. We are anxious that the faith of others in us could evaporate. That is not a new phenomenon. The great leaders of life have always been reluctant. They had other plans for life. But something happened to push them into a responsible role. It wasn’t really their skills or CV’s, and certainly not their ambition.
Mostly, the great leaders were just true believers in a cause. And the people around them had faith that they could make a difference. And some did. But there is no evidence that these leaders were having a good time along the way, but they knew what they had to do.
Gregory the Great was one of the best popes ever. He saved Rome form economic, political, and spiritual crisis in the 6th. Century. But he only wanted to be a monk. He called himself a “contemplative condemned to action.” That reluctance is one of the reasons he is known in history as “the Great.”
Now I realise that you did not know my friend Michael, but for me and others who knew him, he was a “great” man. Great because he lived a life of faith in humility and a life in which his values translated into good actions. He mirrored the Golden Rule, “to do to others as you wish them to do to you” (St. Matthew 7:12, St. Luke 6:31.) That always sounds to me like Good News, and an aspiration worthy as an ideal, and well worth applying in action. Contemplative action. May it be so for you and for me.