As a Paulist I am, of course, drawn to St Paul, and so would like to look at our second reading today from St Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy. The setting for this reading is that St Paul is now an old man, is in prison, and Paul knows his time in this world is short. St Timothy is a much younger man, who had been Paul’s companion and understudy. In many ways Timothy has been Paul’s star pupil, and Paul sees Timothy as his successor to carry on the work of preaching the Good News. And so Paul gives him some last words of advice.
Now as much as I like St Paul, Paul was a brilliant - and I might say even loquacious - man. Paul has rich and complex thoughts, and so his sentences and paragraphs have a tendency to run on and on and on. So I have taken a red pencil to our second reading today to distill from it what is the essence of St Paul’s advice to his trusted and beloved co-worker Timothy, and so also to us.
This is what is left after my effort to boil our second reading down to its essence. [Hold up redacted copy.] You probably can’t read this, but you get the idea.
The edited version reads: “Beloved, Remain faithful to what you have learned and believed, ….. I charge you ….. proclaim the word.”
“Remain faithful” and “proclaim the word.” St Paul is urging, instructing, ordering Timothy to do two things: Remain faithful, and proclaim the word.
And that is excellent advice for each of us.
Remain faithful. You have been called by God to be God’s own adopted and beloved child at your Baptism. It makes no difference if you were baptized as a tiny baby or as an adult. In Baptism you were configured to Christ Jesus and became a beloved child of God. You were joined to the Body of Christ, called to a life of grace, mercy, love and holiness. [At this Mass, Taylor Jill Faulkner will be baptized into this wonderful relationship with God and become a child of God.]
But this special gift or charism of Baptism has to be lived out each day. It is not something you received long ago and keep in a box on a shelf. No, it requires us to be faithful. Not just on Sundays, not just when convenient, not just when we have done all the other things we have to do in the day, but at all times and in all places. Remain faithful.
This means you need to pray every day. Just as you need to breathe every day, so you need to pray every day. Remind yourself that God is your Father, and ask for the help to be faithful. Faithful in your actions, faithful in your words, faithful in your thoughts, faithful in your attitudes, faithful in your emotions, faithful in your whole and entire being.
You are a child of God 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and in every place and circumstance you find yourself. And so you must be faithful all day, every day, true to who you most fundamentally are as a child of God. Fidelity means knowing who you most truly are, and then living that out. Remain faithful.
Secondly, St. Paul tells Timothy, “I charge you … proclaim the word;” What word? Why the Gospel, the Good News of the wonderful gift of faith that we have received, that gives meaning and purpose and hope to our lives, that reveals to us the great hope to which we have been called. The Good News cries out to be shared. We cannot keep the Good News of the Gospel to ourselves, but must share it.
How to do that? First of all, look like you have heard Good News. Smile. People will wonder what you are up to.
Grumpy, unhappy, dour, listless, carping, moaning and groaning depressed Christians do NOT proclaim Good News. Pretty obvious.
We do not have to be happy and bubbly all the time. God knows there are plenty of serious, sad, difficult and painful situations we must confront and deal with in life. But even under all the difficulties and problems and pains, there must still be that rock hard conviction of God’s love for me personally, in Jesus Christ, that gives to my life meaning and purpose and abiding joy. So to proclaim the Good News, look and act like you have heard good news, not bad news. The world is full of bad news. Christians don’t need to bring the world any more bad news. But there is a great, indeed desperate, need for GOOD News!
Artists have not helped us with this. Most Saint’s pictures make them look anemic and as if they have been sucking on lemons. Most holy card saints look this way. I think this is the artists’ attempt to portray the saints as other-worldly. But the most holy people I have personally known have been people of joy. They are not sour and gloomy and depressed. Rather they are people who know intimately God’s love for them and so are joyful. Look at Pope Francis. He radiates joy. And that is what we, as Christians, are called to do.
Secondly, proclaim the Good News by your actions. Live your faith. Exercise it. Work it. Do it. Go out of your way to help, to heal, to donate, to serve, to make things better, to forgive, to love. Show your faith by doing it. It is like that old question, “If being a Christian were a crime, could any court find enough evidence to convict you?” Or would the case be dismissed for lack of evidence? We proclaim our faith by living it.
Again this is not just a Sunday thing, but a fundamental stance of our whole life. St Paul tells Timothy in our second reading: “be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient;” We have to proclaim the word of the Gospel by our lives when it is convenient, and everyone loves us for it, and also when it is inconvenient: when it messes with our plans, when it generates opposition, when it is hard and difficult and scary and we don’t want to do it. We still need to proclaim the Word by our lives. We must take up our cross.
And finally, we have to proclaim the Word by our words. Sometimes that may be words of invitation, to come and see what we have found in the household of the faith. ¿Have you ever invited anyone to join you at Mass, or do discuss faith?
Sometimes proclaiming the Word may be words of healing, of tenderness, of patience, of challenge, of forgiveness, of mercy, of love. Sometimes I think the best proclamation of the Word is listening, of paying deep and undivided attention to another person, allowing them to find their own voice and in that to hear the Lord speaking to them in the depths of their heart. The Holy Spirit is already there, prompting and urging the person long before you ever talk to them. So sometimes we have to create the respectful space for them to hear the Spirit of Christ speaking to them in the depths of their being. And that is a very special proclamation of the Word.
In the Gospel today Jesus ends with a question both provocative and disturbing: “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” The answer to that question is up to us.
St Paul gives Timothy very good advice. It is good advice for me and for you as well. It is simple but not at all easy. Remain faithful. Proclaim the word.
Remain faithful. Proclaim the word. God bless!