MANILA, June 17, 2013—With only a few weeks left before elected officials in the 2013 midterm polls assume their positions, a high-ranking Catholic official on Saturday called on nation’s leaders to be living witnesses of the servant leadership of Christ by shunning away worldly desires and putting forth Divine will as the mission they ought to fulfill.

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle criticized country’s leaders who are greedy for position and power, saying that sincere leadership must be steered by the desire to fulfill God’s will through offering of oneself completely and always prioritizing the needs of others.

“A servant is someone who makes himself totally available to the one who accepted him. Being a servant is a relationship and not just a title,” he said in a 42-minute video message during the Servant Leadership in the Year of Faith conference held at the SMX convention center.

“A servant is someone who is always for the other. The focus is very personal and it is in this perspective that we can only understand true servanthood at the seat of Jesus and in the context of mission,” Tagle added.

He questioned the worldly desires of present-day leaders and urged them to imitate Christ who fulfilled the will of God in his earthly mission instead of running after position and recognition.

“The son cannot do anything out of His own accord. He is here to do the will of the father and that is the active search for a humble service,” Tagle said.

He lamented that some leaders think only of the perks that come with their position without understanding that leadership entails service.

“[It is sad that] some people seek positions but do not perform the service that the position entails. That is not the servant leadership Jesus taught us,” he added.

Hunger for power leads to harmful competition that causes envy, desperation, violence, and the desire to always emerge victorious even at the expense of trampling others, he said, describing it as the “destruction and end of servant leadership.”

Self-emptying, not self-exaltation 

Outlining the characteristics that must be possessed by a true servant leader, he noted that Christ humbled himself to assume servanthood in the context of his mission and urged people to do the same.

“To be a servant is a choice. You have to choose to empty yourself,” Tagle said. “Servanthood in the realm of leadership is not self-promotion. It is always a self-emptying so that God will exalt you.”

He lamented over the current status of the country’s political landscape wherein leaders unceasingly exalt themselves while bragging about their achievements and maligning the reputation of their opponents—a practice that became evident in the recently concluded polls.

“In the context of servant leadership, greatness is not measured in terms of achievements, grace earned, or positions held.  Greatness is measured in terms of being a true servant,” he said, noting that joy and contentment spring from genuine service and fulfill the mission of greatness.

Nation’s leaders must also be willing to take risks in the fulfillment of their mission. They must possess boldness to stand by their principles—no matter how unconventional or controversial they may seem, Tagle said.

Act of mission, not of rite or position 

He added that willingness to relate with one’s constituents is a vital part to fulfill one’s mission as abstaining to do so “forms a leadership that is disconnected with the people” in such that “even in simple ways, (the leader) cannot understand them anymore, cannot understand their experiences.”

“We need more servant leaders who would be willing, freely and lovingly, to leave the head table,” Tagle said, urging leaders to operate not according to rite or position but to perform an act of mission.

He said people must not to be threatened by others who possess great talent and potential to succeed, instead they must imitate Christ who became a servant to his collaborators by teaching, training, and developing His disciples.

Being threatened by others results to neglecting the beauty of the vision and mission, Tagle said, adding that part of servant leadership is acting the gifts present in the community, not being threatened by the presence of those gifts, and developing them so they may be offered for fulfillment.

“Part of servanthood is recognizing that when God poured graces on earth, you did not receive all of them. Other people have gifts too. Let those gifts from the Holy Spirit be developed, recognized, and offered,” he said.

“For a mission to continue it cannot stay to the mind and heart of only one person. A true leader is not threatened by other people,” he added.

Contrary to the prevalence of power-grabbing in the country’s politics, Tagle noted that leaders must trust and share the power they possess to their constituents, just like how Jesus shared His divine ministry and authority to His disciples.

“If we claim to be disciples of Christ, then we should follow his way. He is the ultimate leader, the one at the right hand of the Father, the one name above every other name, but he reached that because he is the true servant of God, of the gospel, and of humanity,” he said. (Jennifer M. Orillaza)