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Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time

1 Cor. 9:16-19, 22-27 & Lk. 6:39-42

Saint Paul’s conversion to Christianity was, as we know, sudden and dramatic. From that moment he found the Gospel so exciting that he felt impelled to spend the rest of his life sharing it with others. It was so important to him that he gave his preaching freely, supporting himself by working as a tentmaker.

As he explains in his letter to the Corinthians, he took his preaching mission very seriously because he wanted to do the job well. He trained and disciplined himself rigorously, like an athlete preparing for a race, or a gladiator training for a contest. He needed to be at the peak of spiritual fitness so that he could be ready for any challenge.

It is not easy to be all things to all men, but Paul trained himself to be adaptable in his preaching style. He never altered or diluted the truth of the Gospel message, but he learnt how to express it in different ways for different audiences. This was the method that Jesus used, and He tells us in the Gospel that "the fully trained disciple will always be like his teacher." Jesus knew how to teach effectively by means of a memorable story, or a familiar example. He knew exactly what to say, whether he was addressing a synagogue congregation, a group of Pharisees, or a crowd of simple country people. He, too, was all things to all men – without ever compromising the truth.

As Christians, we have to play our part in spreading the Good News. We may not have Paul's preaching skills but God will give us many opportunities to share our faith with others. Like Paul we have to do some preparatory training. We can improve our spiritual fitness with regular prayer, spiritual reading, and by inviting the Holy Spirit to guide us. He will never fail us, for He will show us how we can help others, how to talk to them and what advice to give them.

It is obvious that if I were blind I would want a guide who could see and lead me to safety. As sinners we are spiritually blind but our Heavenly Father has provided us with Jesus, His Son, the best possible guide. We can put our hand in His and He will lead us to Heaven.

Although our Heavenly Father would like us to offer ourselves as guides for others, there should be a certain hesitancy when we consider the task. But this is possible if we are humble and remain very close to the Church that Christ founded to continue His mission on Earth.

Christ’s next statement emphasizes that while the disciple is not above his teacher, he can learn as much as the teacher. The disciple of Jesus can learn from Him the steps which lead to salvation and eternal life. Christ not only founded the Church to continue His teaching, but He also endowed her with the gift of His Spirit to preserve her from error. Our confidence in teaching others should derive from the knowledge that we are in union with the Church and seek to follow her teachings. Learning is a lifelong process but for many people religious instruction often ceases with First Communion or Confirmation, and they have only the religious formation of a child. What are we doing to become fully qualified in our knowledge of the faith?

It seems that we are much quicker to detect faults in others than to notice them in ourselves. We can even be really irritated by another person’s faults, even though we ourselves possess them in greater measure than does the person about whom we are complaining! The proud person complains loudly of the conceit and arrogance he sees in his neighbour, but he is blind to his own vice. We need to consider our own condition first - humbly - and then we need to work on truly becoming more Christ-like. The more we allow God’s grace to transform our lives, the more we can help others.

Holy Spirit, inspire us to want to know more about the richness of our Catholic faith, and give us the knowledge and understanding to be able to proclaim the Good News with clarity and confidence.

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