26th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Sept. 26, 2004
1 Tim 6: 11-16
Ursulines, Willow Dr., N.R.
This weekend (Sept. 24-25) I’m away from Champaign for province activities. So here’s another re-run.
“But you, man of God, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness” (1 Tim 6: 11).
Paul’s 2 letters to Timothy are, of course, directed to a specific individual, one of his disciples to whom he has entrusted pastoral care. Hence they, and the similar letter to Titus, are called the Pastoral Epistles. But these letters merit the attention of all of us, not only of bishops and presbyters, for their advice on discipleship.
Paul reminds Timothy of “the noble confession” he made publicly, “in the presence of many witnesses” (6:12), and he compares Timothy’s public testimony to that of “Christ Jesus, who gave testimony under Pontius Pilate” (6:13). Jesus testified to the truth and to the priority of God’s rule before the Roman governor (John 18:36-37), as Timothy did when he accepted Baptism and professed faith in Jesus Christ.
Paul had just been speaking of various vices that Christ’s followers must avoid, especially contentiousness and avarice. In contrast to those, Timothy is to act as a man of God—a prophet, in Old Testament usage of the term—and pursue virtue: righteousness, love, gentleness, and so on. Paul charges him “to keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ” (6:14). By “the commandment” he means total commitment to God, fidelity to his profession of faith without regard to personal cost in this world.
Instead of concern for the goods of this world, Timothy and we are to “pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.” By righteousness, devotion, and faith we cement our relationship with God; by love, patience, and gentleness, with our sisters and brothers. Obviously these virtues are valid and necessary for all Christ’s disciples and not just for presbyters and bishops. For all of us they are our public testimony—before God, before the Church, before society—that we belong to Christ.
We believe that those virtues are the path to eternal life. We were called to eternal life when Christ called us; and by living as he wishes us to live, we will “lay hold of eternal life” (6:12). For Christ is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
Christ, furthermore, will return. Crucifixion was not the end of Jesus of Nazareth or of his message. The ascension of Jesus into heaven has not separated him forever from us. “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead” (Creed), to weigh all our thoughts, words, and deeds in the balance of divine justice, to bring to life all who belong to him and to send on their chosen path all who have rejected him. What we do in this life, the choices we make, our fidelity to God’s plan has eternal consequences, as the rich man finds out in Jesus’ parable today (Luke 16:19-31). So Paul charges Timothy and all of us to “keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ,” who will reveal to all mankind “the King of kings and Lord of lords” (6:15), the eternal God, “who alone has immortality” (6:16) but who shares his immortal life with all who are in Christ.
Paul has pointed toward our goal, and he has marked the way for us. The goal is eternal life, which is God’s gift, and the way to it is our union with Christ Jesus—union of commitment thru Baptism, sacramental union thru the Eucharist, union of testimony in lives that imitate his, union as our everlasting destiny, until we can say with St. Paul, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20).