If I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. What then is my reward? Just this: that in my preaching I may make the gospel free of charge, not making full use of my right in the gospel.
For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
My soul is longing and yearning,
is yearning for the courts of the Lord.
My heart and my soul ring out their joy
to God, the living God. (R./)
The sparrow herself finds a home
and the swallow a nest for her brood;
she lays her young by your altars,
Lord of hosts, my king and my God. (R./)
They are happy, who dwell in your house,
for ever singing your praise.
They are happy, whose strength is in you,
in whose hearts are the roads to Zion. (R./)
For the Lord God is a rampart, a shield;
he will give us his favour and glory.
The Lord will not refuse any good
to those who walk without blame. (R./)
Jesus told them a parable:
"Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher. Why do you see the speck in your neighbour's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbour, 'Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour's eye."
The readings today have direct relevance for people in leadership roles, but they also apply to all human relationships. Those who serve as leaders whether in church, civil service or business, should see themselves not as "superiors" who command "subjects" but as coordinators in a shared project, where the gifts of each persoteam member are respected and given room to flourish.
Paul describes his energetic role as servant/leader, helped in his missionary work by a divine impulse. He feels that sharing the Gospel with others is a commission entrusted to him by God, and he feels driven to carry it out, whatever sacrifices it involves. In order to be all the more free for apostolic work he has remained celibate, "free from all men." He even claims to make himself a slave to all, adapting to the needs of each group of people. Yet even a leader of such overflowing zeal can have his own problems. Sometimes he can appear arrogant, demanding and difficult. He feels that he must discipline his body and subdue it, so that he can practice what he preaches. His public self-examination is a lesson in religious leadership. Three centuries later, Saint Augustine did something similar in his "Confessions" by making the kind of healthy self-examination that can purify the human heart.
In his parable about the blind leading the blind, Jesus teaches us to respect, admire and learn from each other's gifts. Otherwise, in our ignorance we will be proud and arrogant, like a blind man trying to guide another. Each of us needs the insights of others to balance our own views and judgments. It is hard for a learned person to take advice from another, no matter how experienced the other may be. We need mutual and sincere interaction in the Church to keep us on the right path to community and eternal life.
Our limited insight into each other makes it hard to lead others in a way that is fair and just. We may be tempted to think that we see so much more clearly what needs to be done.
Jesus sugests that we are all blind to some degree, so it could be like the blind leading the blind rather than the wise leading the foolish. Changing the metaphor, he gives us the comic scenario of someone trying to take a splinter out of a neighbour's eye while being oblivious of the much larger hazard in his own eye.
The image of dislodging the plank from our own eye warns us be aware of our own defects before judging others. Our own failings can block us from understanding the other person, and this should make us slow to judge and to condemn. He had earlier stated that God, who does see clearly into every heart, is compassionate and merciful to all, even the ungrateful and the wicked. We need to take our lead from God who sees all things clearly, and be merciful on that account.