1Cor 9:16-19,22b-27; Ps 84:3-6,12; Lk 6:39-42
We have been made to dwell in the House of the LORD. We find our only true blessing in his Dwelling Place. Our souls yearn and pine for the courts of the LORD. Our hearts cry out in silent longing with great yearning; such is our deepest desire for the living God. We notice all around us that every creature is welcome home at the altar of the LORD of hosts; our King and God makes room for the tiny creatures, like the sparrow who builds a nest for her little ones in the shelter of the LORD. Like these fragile and tiny creatures we too are secure in his mighty presence. In our true home we continually praise the LORD of hosts. Indeed, the LORD is our strength, and our hearts are on pilgrimage all through this valley of the shadow of death. The brightness of His Glory is our sun and our shield; his grace and glory are upon us in abundance. Indeed the LORD withholds no good thing from those who walk in sincerity. Our freedom in Christ enables us to make ourselves slaves to all so that with Saint Paul we can win over as many as possible. This lifestyle of loving service gives us the sight we need to even remove splinters from the eyes of those inflicted, only if we first remove the planks from our own eyes. This is our best reason for being here today at the Liturgy that we might grow in grace and glory for the good of everyone we serve.
Saint Paul explains his ministry in today’s first reading. In his explanation, we can find our own identity as witnesses to the Gospel. He willingly preaches the good news of the crucified and risen Lord Jesus so that he might fulfill his obligation. The only recompense that he has in this ministry is that he offers the Gospel free of charge so as not to make full use of his right in the Gospel. Indeed his apostolic witness is not for his own gain. He preaches out of the same love that motivated the Lord Jesus. He preaches because he is one with Christ who desires to give himself in loving service. He came not to be served but to serve. Saint Paul sees himself as a slave, a runner and a boxer. He makes himself a slave to all so that he might win over as many as possible to the Servant Lord Jesus. He freely does this so that he might have some share in what he preaches. We too cannot lord it over those caught up in the ignorance and lies of the world; we must preach, heal and suffer for the sake of their salvation in Christ who preached, healed and suffered for the salvation of all. Saint Paul is a runner in the stadium of this world, and he disciplines himself like every athlete for the sake of winning the imperishable crown of glory. We too must give up all that hinders our running with full speed to the finish line. Saint Paul is engaged in a real fight with many forces of the opponent. He is not merely shadowboxing; his contest for virtue is real and demanding. We too must not pretend to be in opposition to the enemy; we must fight with the strength of Christ who makes us strong in the Holy Spirit. Indeed, we must drive our body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, we might find ourselves disqualified.
The Lord Jesus tells his disciples a parable about blind guides. The blind cannot guide anyone. Disciples cannot be blind; we must be able to see ourselves as we really are if we are to be able to guide anyone. Our clear sight is not just for our own walking in faith; we see clearly so that we can help others to see clearly and walk in the light of faith. How can we give hope to anyone who is caught up in the dark lie of habitual sin if we are caught up in the same darkness? How can we help someone who is caught up in the darkness of sin and despair if we are still walking in such blindness? To be a faithful disciple and to call others to follow the Lord of Light we must turn from sin and seek the face of the LORD. We must find our delight in seeing our sin and weakness as an invitation to trust the Lord. Only the Lord himself can heal our blindness and fill us with his light. Only when we can see the wooden beam in our own eye can we help another remove a splinter. We cannot be faithful disciples unless we strive to see clearly the truth of our complete dependence upon the mercy of the Lord of Light. Without his Light, we cannot see in the darkness that sin and vice impose upon our lives. In his light is the mercy we need to remove wooden beams and even tiny splinters. This struggle to grow in holiness will make us helpful to those with splinters; it will enable us to love our service, to run the race, and to fight the opponent.