Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Saints Titus and Timothy, bishops

Timothy (d. 97?): What we know from the New Testament of Timothy’s life makes it sound like that of a modern harried bishop. He had the honour of being a fellow apostle with Paul, both sharing the privilege of preaching the gospel and suffering for it. Timothy had a Greek father and a Jewish mother named Eunice. Being the product of a “mixed” marriage, he was considered illegitimate by the Jews. It was his grandmother, Lois, who first became Christian. Timothy was a convert of Paul around the year 47 and later joined him in his apostolic work. He was with Paul at the founding of the Church in Corinth. During the 15 years he worked with Paul, he became one of his most faithful and trusted friends. He was sent on difficult missions by Paul—often in the face of great disturbance in local Churches which Paul had founded. Timothy was with Paul in Rome during the latter’s house arrest. At some period Timothy himself was in prison (Hebrews 13:23). Paul installed him as his representative at the Church of Ephesus. Timothy was comparatively young for the work he was doing. (“Let no one have contempt for your youth,” Paul writes in 1 Timothy 4:12a.) Several references seem to indicate that he was timid. And one of Paul’s most frequently quoted lines was addressed to him: “Stop drinking only water, but have a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent illnesses” (1 Timothy 5:23).

Titus (d. 94?): Titus has the distinction of being a close friend and disciple of Paul as well as a fellow missionary. He was Greek, apparently from Antioch. Even though Titus was a Gentile, Paul would not let him be forced to undergo circumcision at Jerusalem. Titus is seen as a peacemaker, administrator, great friend. Paul’s second letter to Corinth affords an insight into the depth of his friendship with Titus, and the great fellowship they had in preaching the gospel: “When I went to Troas...I had no relief in my spirit because I did not find my brother Titus. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.... For even when we came into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted in every way—external conflicts, internal fears. But God, who encourages the downcast, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus...” (2 Corinthians 2:12a, 13; 7:5-6). When Paul was having trouble with the community at Corinth, Titus was the bearer of Paul’s severe letter and was successful in smoothing things out. Paul writes he was strengthened not only by the arrival of Titus but also “by the encouragement with which he was encouraged in regard to you, as he told us of your yearning, your lament, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more.... And his heart goes out to you all the more, as he remembers the obedience of all of you, when you received him with fear and trembling” (2 Corinthians 7:7a, 15). The Letter to Titus addresses him as the administrator of the Christian community on the island of Crete, charged with organizing it, correcting abuses and appointing presbyter-bishops.

“But when the kindness and generous love of God our Saviour appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the holy Spirit, whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life. This saying is trustworthy” (Titus 3:4-8).

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark (3: 31-35)

"The mother and brothers of Jesus arrived and, standing outside, sent in a message asking for him. A crowd was sitting round him at the time the message was passed to him. 'Your mother and brothers and sisters are outside asking for you.' He replied, 'Who are my mother and my brothers?' And looking round at those sitting in a circle about him, he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers. Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother.' "

(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)

There are numerous things we take for granted, day by day. We take for granted the air we breathe, the shelter we have, the work that is ours and the health we might enjoy. We take for granted the family into which we were born and the nation of which we are citizens. If for any reason we are suddenly deprived of these blessings, it is then that we understand how much we depend on them. A catastrophe occurs and one’s family is lost — how forlorn does life suddenly become and what a struggle lies ahead! Or again, we are made redundant and our job is lost. The mortgage cannot be met and in due course the home is lost. To that point we had taken so much for granted. There is another blessing, a feature of life that is almost like the air we breathe and which we also tend to take for granted. I refer to the entire social dimension of life. We are profoundly dependent on relationships with others. We are not made to be alone. We are so constituted that if we are to flourish at all, then in some sense we must be in relationship with others — or at least another. This is so evident that it barely merits observation, except that its implications are very often not realized. In actual fact, the entire universe is essentially relational. Virtually nothing stands alone, down to the tiniest neutron. Inanimate things depend on other things, as does the vast realm of living things — right up to the family of man. All things are enmeshed in a network of relationships which give to them their true dynamism and life. If a human being is completely isolated, it is certain that, like other things in the world, he will crumble to pieces. In all of this, the world bears the imprint of the Creator himself. While God is one infinite being, he is not solitary. He is three divine persons in an ineffable mutual relationship. Now, while the universe is a heaving, throbbing network of mutual relationships, what especially distinguishes man is that the soul of all his relationships is his bond with God. He is called to be involved with God his creator. That is, he is a religious being.

Man instinctively knows this. He takes to being religious, unless his culture or his own deliberate neglect smothers this natural propensity. As God’s creature, he has been so constituted as to tend to want to be in some relationship to God. The challenge is to make of this the foundation of his life. That is to say, it is not enough that he acknowledge the existence of God and turn to him often enough, especially when in difficulty. Essentially, he must accept God’s authority and respond to it with obedience. This is the perennial challenge for religious man. It is no great thing to be religious — it is natural to man for he is God’s creature, even though modern secular man characteristically suffers from the aberration of lacking religion. What man is called to do is not just to be in some conscious relationship with God, but to be in a relationship distinguished by continual obedience. If he fails in obedience, he must recognize this, repent of it, and get back on course. All of this arises from the fact that he is God’s creature. But a new situation has come into being by the direct intervention of God. It is that God has become man and has inaugurated a new family around him. We are now called to a wondrously new relationship with him. We are to be brothers and sisters of the Incarnate God himself. God is now not only my Creator, but he is my Brother. This is one of the most obvious differences between Christianity and, say, Islam. Jesus, my God, is my Brother because of the Incarnation and because of the Atonement. He took to himself our human nature and he redeemed us from our sin. We are his brothers and sisters, as he says in our Gospel passage today. “Who are my mother and my brothers?' And looking round at those sitting in a circle about him, he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers.'” Let us not take this new relationship for granted. God has made himself our kinsman. But the same challenge lies ahead. We must accept God’s authority and respond in obedience. “Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3: 31-35).

Life is meant to flourish, and we all feel sad when life fails. The life of man depends especially on a flourishing relationship with God his Creator. For man this means a life of obedience to him, and more precisely, a loving obedience. This is not just something we must search for according to our best lights. It is something which God has revealed and instituted in an extraordinary fashion. God has become man to make of us his brothers and sisters. The invitation stands, and the deepest human tragedy consists in the invitation not being accepted. But once accepted, we must then do what Christ our Brother did. We must do the will of God. Therein lies true life.

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