Follow me!

‘Follow me!’ You would need to be full of confidence, perhaps like St Paul, to say that to another! I once committed myself to another’s lead on a mountain side when we were lost. But what happens when someone you trust let’s you down? I had trust, appreciation and admiration for the first leader of this country for twenty years (from 1974). But then, in 1995, my trust crumbled. I felt let down.

Now it has happened again. Someone, whose compassion for people with disabilities made him a star for thousands who followed his example, has been found to be a weak fragile human being. I was one of those who was deeply inspired by Jean Vanier and, like so many, became involved in the work he began. Now it turns out that he was leading a double life: announcing the ‘good news to the poor’ on the one hand and exploiting vulnerable young women on the other. Jean was such an influential person that the organisation he founded commissioned an inquiry involving experts from many professions to study the evidence and make their judgement.

Those of us who hoped for some soothing conclusion that would somehow diminish the impact of the revelations are not only disappointed but now know the situation is much worse than we feared. We are prepared, perhaps, for a political leader to dash our hopes. But it is harder when a man, seemingly embedded in the gospel, proves to be quite other than we thought.  (The work he founded, l’Arche, is untainted by his behaviour and lives by its own, often heroic, values).

What do we do when we feel let down? Get angry? Start blaming? Become cynical? All these. But they don’t help. In the end we have to reflect; was I transferring my ideals onto another, allowing that person to carry the crown I am too scared to wear? Was I allowing another person to be my hero because I had not the courage to be a hero myself? Have I hid in another’s shadow, content to bask in their glory while evading the responsibility of cultivating my own?

When Jesus said, ‘you are the salt of the earth, you are the light of the world’, he was talking to each of us – not to our leaders. We are, each of us, individuals, responsible for our own choices. These people I mention were human beings, tainted by their own unprocessed lusts. Despite their gifts, they could not cope. In the end they let us down. Instead of getting angry with them for failing, can I try to embrace the struggle of being ‘salt’ and ‘light’ myself?

5 February 2023     Sunday 5A   Is 57:7-10     I Cor 2:1-5   Mt 5:13-16

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