Paul on Paul – 7th February 2021

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time; Year B
1 Corinthians 9:16-19; 22-23

I do not boast of preaching the gospel, since it is a duty which has been laid on me; I should be punished if I did not preach it! If I had chosen this work myself, I might have been paid for it, but as I have not, it is a responsibility which has been put into my hands. Do you know what my reward is? It is this in my preaching, to be able to offer the Good News free, and not insist on the rights which the gospel gives me.

So though I am not a slave of any man I have made myself the slave of everyone so as to win as many as I could. For the weak I made myself weak. I made myself all things to all men in order to save some at any cost; and I still do this, for the sake of the gospel, to have a share in its blessings.

I saw a tweet this week (which I can’t find at the moment) about a man looking after his daughter and his frustration at him being told he is “baby-sitting” his daughter that day while his wife’s away. This annoyed him because the assumption underlying this is that it’s the mum’s job to look after the children, and the dad doing that is unusual or weird. This idea is all over the place in advertising too – it’s either the woman doing the cleaning and childcare to the man badly trying to do it and failing.

What annoyed the twitter-dad was that he (correctly) thought that being a dad involved looking after the kids. Yet, the more widely this is seen as the job of others. It’s a similar kind of lesson Paul is trying to impart to the Corinthians (and us) today.

It’s easy for us to assume that the job of spreading the Gospel is the job of ‘other people’. Specifically, the job of priests. They are the ones that are in charge of spreading the Gospel and we – ordinary Christians – are there simply to receive. If you look to the way Christianity is depicted in popular culture, then that’s a fair assumption. But when we are baptised and become a Christian we are encouraged to become like Christ in all ways.

Christ was “priest, prophet and king” and, in seeking to become like Christ we are duty bound to try and become like Christ in all ways. It is the Prophets who share God’s Word and, because we have become prophets by virtue of our baptism, we all have a duty to share the Gospel in the same way that St. Paul does. Some in a special way – like as a parish catechist, for example – but each of us have it as a “…duty which has been laid on [us]”. We all have a duty on our shoulders – one that we should each embrace using whatever skills and talents we possess, to share our faith with others.

The people who can most readily relate to this, perhaps, are parents. We often see falling numbers in Churches, or a reducing number of young people at Mass and think “this is the Church’s problem”. Parents are the first educators of their children in all mattes, including matters of faith – if there is an answer, it is with our parents in the family.  I can remember my mum telling me about Jesus, and Noah’s Ark – not verse-for-verse, but as an introduction to the Church. That is the duty of parents in a special way to, as Jesus said, “bring the little child unto him” and to “…do this, for the sake of the Gospel, to have a share in its blessings”.

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