Friday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus chose His apostles not only as His collaborators in building the Kingdom, but also as His replacements; He very much planned, in a sense, to work Himself out of the job. He says as much in today’s Gospel: “No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher.” Is this not what became of the Apostles (eleven of them, at any rate)? Being a disciple of Christ is not so much about following; being a builder of the Kingdom is not merely about carrying out orders. Rather, each of us—from the lowest hole-digger to the most skilled architect—is meant to become like the One who is all at once the master architect, manager, benefactor and all else. Jesus does not want an army of followers only, but rather a body of men and women who are like Himself. We know full well what one Jesus is capable of; imagine a whole Church of people who are like Him!
He underscores the importance of this, for if we are to labor with Christ in the help of souls, what use are we to a soul in need if we are in just as much need, or greater? The blind cannot lead the blind; we must have the light of Christ in our life before we can hope to lead anyone to the source of that Light. What use is it to denounce sin in the world if we are caught in the same mire? In other words, before we can dress a stone for addition to the Kingdom, we must first permit Jesus to dress us. This can be an excruciating experience; as living stones we, unlike ordinary stones, feel every blow of the chisel, endure every scrape of the rasp. We are capable of flinching, of resisting Jesus’ work of perfecting us, and we can keep our flaws if we so choose. If we do this, however, we not only are unable to help build the Kingdom but we distance ourselves from Christ; we, in effect, believe ourselves to be superior to the teacher, to the sculptor who desires to transform us into Himself, thus ceasing to be disciples.
Anyone who has experienced a splinter in their finger or foot—heaven forbid an eye!—knows that not only is it painful going in, but it can be even more painful to remove. Yet our Physician is “a man of suffering, knowing pain, like one from whom you turn your face…yet it was our pain that he bore, our sufferings he endured…he was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity. He bore the punishment that makes us whole; by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:3-5) “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) Therefore let us trust in the only One who can see clearly enough to remove the splinter in us, to lead our poor blind souls, that coming to see Him with our own eyes we might better help others to see.