Pope Francis shocked the world when recently after being appointed pope he suddenly ran over to a priest for confession in the middle of the church!

It was unprepared and unplanned and yet a sign to the world that

1. The pope is a sinner too

and

2. He is not afraid to show and admit it to the world!

As I reflect on this today I feel Jesus telling me that this is an example of leadership to the world.

Everybody is a leader of something whether a parent of a family or a team at work or whatnot and we could all learn from Francis’ example!

How beautiful it is when parents can be humble with their kids and admit their flaws, when priests and church leaders can be humble with their flock and be vulnerable about their flaws….it’s healing all around!

For too long in the church leaders were pressurised into appearing perfect. Outward appearance becane everything and the priesthood or leadership was a calling for the perfect rather than the humble!

The joke goes that if the 12 apostles were alive today and applied to the priesthood that only Judas would be accepted! He was pragmatic and worldly while the others were uneducated and fiery!

As we see our church today and all the scandals and coverups that have happened we can’t help but be saddened. Saddened first for the victims and saddened secondly for the church!

Covering up sins is the devils game. He’s all about deceiving and lying, pride and appearance. Jesus on the other hand is about truth, vulnerability and honesty!

When the curé of Ars was presented a petition prepared by other priests as to why he should have been fired, he read it and signed it! He was aware of all his faults and didn’t try to cover them up!

Today I went to confession and the priest commended me on my honesty acknowledging that it can’t have been easy to talk so openly about my inner life.

It hit me that ordinary people greatly appreciate honesty and truth and that they do not expect church leaders to be perfect but rather to be honest

!My first experience of such leadership was in Australia where priests and laypeople would meet and share alike! There was no expectation for the priest to be perfect or shock at his sharing. He was allowed to be human!

Even more humbling was the inner healing ministry in Sydney where we had accountability groups for men dealing with sexual addiction. The leader, a pastor and gifted man would humbly share about his own ongoing struggles despite being sober for some 30 years!

Here the leaders were leading by example in their vulnerability and honesty and were not dictators. The ordinary people loved them as they were not just leaders but they were brothers and friends.

When leadership goes wrong it turns into a top down ‘them and us’ fiasco and will ultimately go nowhere. The leaders adapt a persona of superiority and pride sets in.

People become afraid to talk to them as they are falsely taught that it is prideful to question the leader! Hitler operated in this way and people followed him like dummies!

At the moment I find myself as the ‘leader’ of our little group of 3! How often do I hear things like

“we’d expect more and better from Michael, he’s the leader”

In other words they expect me to be perfect and when they discover I’m not they get disappointed!

At this stage I’ve learn to laugh it off even if it still can be hurtful and pressurising!

As you all know I wear my brokenness on the outside! I can be moody and I can snap, I can be critical and judgmental at times too and yet I can also be full of love and compassion and mercy!

Does that make me a bad leader? No! It makes me human and not afraid to show it and grow from it!

And so my message today is simple. No matter who you are your first vocation is to being a human being and to be able to go on your knees to God and to your brothers and sisters and say sorry!

So leaders let us “rise up” certainly but more importantly let us “kneel down”!