If someone asked you to draw three pictures which represented something of what it means to be a leader and a member of Christ's Church, what would you draw? Possibly you would picture people praying, singing, reading the Bible, or helping the poor. In today's first reading, Paul pictures the Church and its leaders in three ways.
First, he pictures the apostles as "men doomed to die in the arena" (1 Cor 4:9), that is, about to be thrown to the lions (see 1 Cor 15:32; 2 Tm 4:17; 2 Cor 1:8). This literally happened to countless Christians in the first century.
Paul's second picture of the apostles and the Church is that of a cosmic theater with such a gigantic screen that the whole universe, including angels and humans, can gawk at us (1 Cor 4:9). What's playing at the mega-movies is a comedy. We're the comedy. The cosmos is not laughing with us, but at us. The joke is on us. We have become "fools on Christ's account" (1 Cor 4:10).
Paul's last picture of us is that of a dump, a pile of garbage, "the world's refuse, the scum of all; that is the present state of affairs" (1 Cor 4:13). Like Jesus, we have been rejected and discarded (see Lk 20:17). We give off "an odor" which repels the worldly (2 Cor 2:16).
The point of Paul's pictures is that the Church, like its Head, is a "sign of contradiction" to the world (see Lk 2:34). As followers of Christ, we are radically opposed to the ways of the world. It hates us because we don't belong to it (Jn 15:18-19). However, we love the people in the world so much (see Jn 3:16) that we confront them and call them to faith and repentance.