Commentary on the Gospel of
Memorial of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, Virgin
Shakespeare’s line in King Henry IV, “Heavy is the head that wears the crown,” came to mind when I read the passage from the Book of Wisdom. Beware the wrath God was about to bring down on the kings, magistrates, ministers and judges who had misplaced the peoples’ trust, or in this case, God’s trust, and abused the power they were given.
The reading seems apropos for us today, based on our political climate. As we read the passage, it is easy to come up with examples of members from both sides of the aisle who have abused and misused the power and trust they were given. And in our subsequent conversations with friends, many of us have probably stood back and mocked the disgraced with lines like, “Well, the bigger they are, the harder they fall,” or “With great power, comes great responsibility, and they blew it.”
But can we be safe in assuming this reading is only about officials who are constantly in the public view, issuing orders and deciding guilt or innocence, or is there a deeper meaning? Is it also a cautionary tale for how we, as everyday citizens, are to lead our lives? Do only kings, magistrates, ministers and judges, wear crowns, or do we, as ministers of his kingdom, also wear crowns?
We all wear crowns, be it the crown of a spouse, a parent, a friend, a co-worker or even the crown of a stranger. And our heads may also be heavy with the responsibility that comes with a crown, but there a way to lessen its weight and burden.
St. Ignatius tackled this issue almost 500 years ago and gave us a roadmap to lightening the weight of the crown. From the beginning of the Jesuit order, Ignatius believed all members of the Society of Jesus were called to lead. But to be an effective leader, certain skills needed to be developed. What Ignatius said then is still true today: The key to leading is in understanding our own strengths and weaknesses. That knowledge and deeper understanding come through daily reflection – looking for God’s presence in our lives and asking for the help of the Spirit to guide our interactions.
Ignatius also stressed that leaders were those who engaged others with dignity, a positive attitude and an open heart, ready to love and accept. He charged the Society to govern using "all the love and modesty and charity possible." Ignatius knew that fear was not how one leads, but rather, by being mutually supportive and creating positive environments fueled by acceptance and affection.
Like it or not, we are all leaders who impact those around us. As we go about our busy lives, we need to stop frequently and reflect on the impact of our words and actions or inactions. We may not lead on the grand scale of a pope, president or premier, but we are equally as powerful to those who look to us for guidance, counsel and love.