IN THIS Sunday’s First Reading (Malachi 1:14 – 2:2), Yahweh reprimands the priests of the Old Testament-era Israel for their failure to be faithful to their duties. God even curses them for cheating him – for vowing to sacrifice one thing and then offering something different, even blemished at that.

In the gospel (Matthew 23:1-12), Jesus similarly rebukes the scribes and the Pharisees for “not practicing what they preach.” They impose heavy burdens on their flock, but they themselves “do not move a finger” to comply with these requirements. They perform their duties ceremonially and mechanically, only with the intention of being seen, praised and honored by men.

God rejects this behavior, not only in spiritual leadership but also in all types of leadership, be this in the family, community, government, work, or socio-civic organizations. God expects leaders to exhibit integrity – to be morally upright, and to be whole and undivided in all situations, whether seen or unseen.

Leadership is best modeled in the fatherhood of God. As a good father, God gives what is best for his children (see Matthew 7:11) – providing them what they need and not necessarily what they want, for not everything that man wants advances the good that God has purposed in the lives of his sons and daughters.

God, as a father, creates (Genesis 1), cares (Psalm 23) , protects (Psalm 91), provides (Philippians 4:19), teaches (Psalm 32:8), guides (Psalm 48:14), heals (Isaiah 53), forgives (Matthew 6:14), disciplines (Hebrews 12:6), restores (Luke 15:11-32), encourages (1John 4:18) and communes (John 14:23). More than anything else, God as a father loves each one of us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).

Jesus’ instruction “to call no man on earth your father” (Matthew 23:9) is not to be taken in the literal sense. In the fourth of the Ten Commandments, God himself taught us to honor our “father” and mother (Exodus 20:12), while St. Paul, himself, talked about spiritual fatherhood (1 Corinthians 4:14-16). What Jesus stresses is the fact that all forms of fatherhood, and leadership for that matter, should flow from the fatherhood and leadership of God.

In the same way, all teachers are to teach based on the wisdom and knowledge of the Supreme Teacher (God), and all masters are to lead based only on the authority that the Lord has entrusted to them as stewards.

Yes, the call to humility is side by side with the call to integrity in leadership. As Jesus concludes this Sunday’s gospel, “He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”