Friday, January 26, 2007

Friday in the 3rd Week of Ordinary Time (I)
Memorial of Timothy and Titus, Bishops
Remembering What We Have Received

Readings: 2 Timothy 1:1-8 or Titus 1:1-5; Psalm 96:1-2a, 2b-3, 7-8a, 10; Luke 10:1-9

Today, as we remember the bishops Timothy and Titus – coworkers of Paul the apostle – our readings focus our attention on our mission as Christians. In the gospel, Jesus appoints and sends out the seventy-two to proclaim that the kingdom of God is very near. And in the first reading, Paul exhorts Timothy to never be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord, even to the extent of bearing hardships for the sake of the Good News.

And we know quite well that the same can be said of us too. The same mission given to Timothy and to the seventy-two has been given to us at our baptism. We too are called and sent out to witness to the Lord, to bear hardships for the sake of the Good News, to proclaim the kingdom of God. And yet, we know that this is not an easy mission to accomplish. We know how easy it is either to think ourselves too unworthy for the task, or to give up when the going gets tough. We know too well what it feels like to be out in the world like lambs among wolves. Sometimes it’s so tempting, so much safer, simply to try to blend in, to try to be lambs in wolves clothing. Except that when we do that, we so easily lose touch with the lamb within. We so easily become transformed into wolves ourselves. How then might we find the strength to persevere? What can we learn from the experience of Timothy and the seventy-two?

We might notice how Paul begins his exhortation to Timothy. We probably know the feeling of having someone nag us continually to do something which we know we should do, but can’t quite find the strength or energy or motivation to do it. We know how frustrating that can be, how it makes us feel more like giving up than carrying on. But Paul doesn’t do that. Rather than nagging, he begins precisely by helping Timothy to get in touch with the energy that he needs to accomplish his mission. He begins by helping Timothy to remember what he has received. I remember, he says, the sincere faith which you have… That is why I am reminding you to fan into a flame the gift that God gave you… God’s gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power, and love, and self-control…

And this gift was not received by Timothy as a solitary individual. Paul also reminds Timothy how the gift of faith that he received is shared with his grandmother and his mother – both of whom Paul mentions by name – and also with Paul himself. Just as Paul finds consolation and strength in the memory of this common bond, he expects that Timothy will as well. In the gospel too, the seventy-two receive their commissions from Jesus not as solitary individuals but as a community of disciples. They are even sent out in pairs. And, like Paul and Timothy, isn’t it also true of the seventy-two that in their sense of being bound together in a common mission they experience God’s Spirit of power, and love, and self-control?

Sisters and brothers, Jesus’ words to the seventy-two remain true for us: the harvest is rich but the labourers are few. How might we find the strength to respond to the Lord’s call? How is the Lord sending us out into his harvest today?

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