Sharing Not Only the Gospel, But Ourselves

Today’s second Mass reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians describes Paul’s behavior toward the Thessalonians. It is behavior that stands in sharp contrast to the behavior of the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus criticizes in today’s Gospel from St. Matthew.

The scribes and Pharisees “tip up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulder, but they will not lift a finger to move them.” They take places of honor everywhere they go, clearly viewing themselves as separate and above everyone around them. There is no sense of any relationship between them and the people to whom they preach.

In contrast, Paul describes his behavior as like that of a nursing mother caring for her children, citing his determination “to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us.” Instead of the burden placed on the scribes and Pharisees, Paul describes “working night and day in order not to burden any of you.”

We can contrast two ways of preaching the Gospel. One is to preach words, words that tell others what to do, without any thought of those to whom we speak or their needs. The other is to “share not only the Gospel, but ourselves,” seeing those to whom we preach – by our words and deeds – as our dearly beloved.

I think it is pretty clear which Jesus prefers.