In the first reading we witness the final farewell of the Apostle Paul, who had not only established the church at Ephesus but lived among the new believers for three years.
The church in Ephesus had produced several effective leaders whose keen minds grasped the significance of Paul’s message. Teaching such converts must have been very gratifying for Paul. And yet, in his final farewell, he said nothing about these exceptional leaders. Rather his attention is on those at the other end of the spectrum: the humble and lowly who enjoy a special relationship with God.
Every community, every parish, every family has its own weak members. Through whatever combination of genetics, upbringing, health problems, sin, and just plain hard luck, it’s unlikely that they will ever be able to take care of themselves adequately. And yet these are the ones Paul singled out for special attention, for he fully understood the fundamental precept of the Gospel that those who are more graced should care for those who are in need, and not take advantage of them or ignore them.
Such a philosophy goes against our human nature. Those who walk quickly find it irritating to slow down for those who lag behind. It can be hard for someone with a quick mind to have to re-explain things to someone who just doesn’t get it. Instead of putting ourselves in their shoes, we tend to imagine them in ours. But when we do this, we exercise the judgment that belongs to God alone and we fail to extend the mercy of God: a mercy that belongs to the strong and the weak alike.