According to the Constitution on the Church from Vatican II, the Church’s purpose is to bring us into such a complete and intimate relationship with God that we become “holy,” that is, God-like. Today’s Gospel puts it succinctly: “when fully trained, every disciple will be like the teacher . .” If we are disciples of Jesus, being disciplined to a relationship with God that marks us as a disciple, then we must act like Jesus – that is the sum total of our Catholic “ethics” in a nut shell. This is possible, of course, only because we have received the Spirit of the Son who makes it possible in the instance from today’s Gospel passage, to see at all and to recognize the plank in our own eye as opposed to the splinter in the neighbor’s eye.
Another aspect of receiving this Spirit is that we are compelled by the relationship to share the goodness of it with others. Paul tells us in today’s first reading that an obligation has been imposed on him by his call to preach the good news (gospel) of God’s love and its implications for a life of loving kindness. Whether he himself can fulfill all the “ethics” of his own call to holiness – he is obliged to preach to others. So it is with every ecclesial minister, whether ordained or lay. Anyone with leadership responsibility in the Church has two “response – abilities”: the first is the same as all other Christians – to BE in Christ – that is to BE holy; the second is to preach to the world, through word and deed, the good news of God’s saving love.
No Christian is exempt from the first task and no leader is exempted from that second task, however morally imperfect he or she is. In a world which despises hypocrisy (or at least despises it in everyone else) it is difficult to preach that which you only imperfectly model. So we look at our preachers askance and ask how they can tell us what God desires if they don’t live it themselves. The fact is, even Paul worried about running the race well enough to win the prize of perfection in his relationship with God – so we should expect the same imperfection from all our ministers.
There are many messages buried in today’s texts, but I would summarize this rather winding reflection of what I heard with several points: The Spirit of God is given to us by Christ to bring us to a relationship with him so intimate that we are identified with Him in all things. That same Spirit will teach us to SEE what we need to know about ourselves and others, to SPEAK what we need to say, and above all to ACT in a way that demonstrates that we belong to Christ.
Come Holy Spirit, give us the fire of your love of Christ and the Father, instill in us the discipline to run the race faithfully, and grant the discrimination to recognize our own boards ahead of the splinters of our neighbors. Amen.
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