23rd Week, Friday, Sept 11

1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-27 / Luke 6:39-42
Paul talks about discipline:
Athletes deny themselves for earthly crowns. In his autobiography Nigger, Dick Gregory, the athlete, comedian, and civil rights activist, tells how, in high school, he disciplined himself to run for several hours each day, even in the midst of winter.
He says: "I don't think I would ever have finished high school without running, never got hungry while I was running, even though we never ate breakfast at home and I didn't always have enough money for lunch. I was proud of my body . . . and never had to take a rest." Dick Gregory is a living example of what Paul talks about in today's reading. 
How courageously do we discipline our bodies and our spirits to win a crown that will never perish? "The heights by great men reached and kept Were not attained by sudden flight, But, they, while their companion slept, were toiling upward in the night." 
Henry Longfellow 

Paul asserts and proves that he has two rights which are the rights of every human person: the right to marry and the right to receive due wages for his work. The other apostles claim these rights. He  renounces them for the sake of the kingdom, to give God a better service. An apostle had to be supported by the people. Every priest, Jew and pagan, lived on the altar. The principle was: who serves the altar, lives by the altar. This principle is followed in the church till today. The sacrifice gave the priest his share. People were generous enough and gave of their best. From this developed the custom of offering a stipend for the sacrifice of the Mass. Paul renounced this right of receiving any recompense for his work. It made him not only more independent, so that he could not be considered a burden. Above all he expected all his reward from God. He lived on the work of his hands. Like a Jewish rabbi who considered working for God a privilege and duty.

Living in government flats (public housing) has its conveniences as well as its irritations. One irritation, at least on the ears, is when someone decides to start practising the piano, or the trumpet, or sings along with the karaoke. Somehow the Do-Re-Me of the music scales, or an out-of-tune melody, or that annoying voice of the karaoke singing, pervades and invades our consciousness and subconsciousness. At times, we wish we could be deaf for just that particular period of time. But the intrusion on our ears should also open our eyes to see that practice and training are necessary disciplines for any kind of skill. Even St. Paul noted in the 1st reading that athletes go into strict training just to win a prize that will eventually wither away. One spiritual exercise that we ought to do at least twice a day is the examination of our conscience. We can do it once in the middle of the day and another before we end the day. As we give thanks to God for His blessings, we also ask God for the grace to see the planks in our own eyes that obstruct us from seeing the goodness of the people around us, and the lessons of love that life is teaching us. So, the next time we hear someone plonking away at the piano, or blaring away with the trumpet, or singing out of tune, let us see the perseverance and persistence. May that also help to bring out the patience and understanding in ourselves.
Reflection on the Gospel: These words are addressed to the apostles. Jesus is training them. They are meant to be leaders in the community and teachers. As leaders they cannot be blind, as teachers they cannot be ignorant. As teachers they have to equip themselves with the knowledge their master has and wants them to communicate. No teacher can lead his pupils beyond what he himself knows. They must learn to see. Words are not enough in a leader.  He needs the full vision if he wants to be a leader. He must be able to make others see. A good leader and a good teacher have a positive attitude to those they lead and teach. Their faults cannot destroy the respect he has for them. The leader and teacher are more vulnerable, if people are able to point a finger at them and accuse them. Their task is to remove the faults, to take off all that keeps their charges away from Christ. If, however, the faults they point out are also their own, their teaching loses effectiveness. The audience must have smiled at this humorous way of putting it. 
It is equally important for ourselves that we remember the "big picture" whether it be unity at home, work or parish. If we live alone, we can be as demanding as we wish. But when we live in a community, compromise is important. The issue that Paul has been tackling is the location of the dividing line between the negotiable and the non-negotiable. It is difficult at times to distinguish the trivial from the important. Everything in our life and in our religion is not at the same level. There is a hierarchy of values in our church life, spiritual life, work life, social life and personal life. 
Let us Pray:   Lord our God, you are just and holy, and yet you are patient and tolerant with us.  We are but slow-learning students of our one Teacher, Jesus Christ.  He saw people’s faults, but he had come not to condemn but to forgive and save.  Give us clear eyes to look into our own hearts and consciences, but dim them with the shades of love when we see the faults of those around us.  We ask you this through Christ our Lord. Amen. God bless.