God’s Starting the Flame and Our Stirring It, SS. Timothy and Titus, January 26, 2018

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Sacred Heart Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Friday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Memorial of SS. Timothy and Titus
January 26, 2018
2 Tim 1:1-8, Ps 96, Mk 4:26-34

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today on the Feast of SS. Timothy and Titus, two great collaborators of St. Paul who assisted him in crisscrossing the ancient world to “proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations” and who were installed by him as important bishops among the first Christian communities. Proclaiming the Gospel is meant to be a description and an imperative for all Christians. It means to “sing to the Lord a new song,” to “bless his name,” to “announce his salvation day after day,” to “tell his glory among the nations, [and] among all peoples his wondrous deeds,” it means to “give to the Lord glory and praise, … the glory due his name!,” and to declare “The Lord is king [and] governs the peoples with justice.” Saints Timothy and Titus took seriously and acted on the Christian calling to proclaim God’s wondrous deeds to all the nations, to go to the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Saints Timothy and Titus learned how to proclaim the Gospel in this way from St. Paul himself.
  • But for them and us to be able to do this, we must first receive the gift of that Gospel and let it grow. That’s what today’s Gospel is about. On Wednesday, Jesus gave us the Parable of the Sower and the Seed and focused on faith-filled receptivity, which he said features hearing the Word, actively accepting it, and bearing fruit 30, 60 and 100-fold. Yesterday, if we didn’t have the Feast of St. Paul’s Conversion, we would have heard Jesus say that true faith can’t be hidden, but shines like the light of a lamp placed on a lamp stand, and that the more we exercise the spiritual muscle of the theological virtue of faith, the more it will grow. Today he gives us two images to teach us two more aspects about the increase in faith that is meant to happen when we enter and live in his kingdom, the increase that is built into the seeds he plants. Jesus says, first, that faith grows like a mustard seed. “When it is sown in the ground,” Jesus says, “it is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” Even a little bit of faith is enough, Jesus would say elsewhere, to move mountains. Even when it seems small, we should know that it contains within the power to grow to be enormous. And Jesus by another image describes one of the most important parts of that growth. It’s God’s work. Jesus compares the growth in faith to what happens with a farmer scattering seed in the Holy Land, turning it over once, and then allowing the growth. “It is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.” The farmer certainly does a little of the work, but most of the work happens by what is contained in the seed, what is contained in the soil, and the water that comes. So it is with growth in faith. God has given us that seed, he’ll provide the water, and he’ll give so many of the nutrients necessary for us to be rich, fruitful soil. And so we should have great confidence in God’s work.
  • But there’s also our work. That’s what St. Paul tells St. Timothy at the end of today’s part of his second letter, ““Stir into a flame the gift of God you have received.” The fire that was ignited that day in us is meant to grow, and it grows by our “stirring” the flame God has placed within us. For us to do that, St. Paul warns of us three things that rather than growing the flame can extinguish it. He said first that we need to have courage and confidence in what the flame contains: “For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.” Second we need to proud of it, even if we should suffer for it: “So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake.” Third, we need to be ready to suffer for it, because that’s a means by which the flame of faith grows: “Bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.”
  • The source of SS. Timothy’s and Titus’ strength was the Eucharist. They were present with St. Paul as he celebrated the Lord’s Supper for the first Christians. They were ordained to lead the first generations of followers in grounding their whole existence not just on the words of God, but the Word of God made flesh. Today as we come forward to receive Jesus, who implants himself in us as a seed, they’re interceding for us now that as we receive this gift, we may allow it to transform us, to become radiant light, to become our power and love and self-mastery as we seek to measure out to the extent of giving our body and blood for others what Jesus himself measures for us here. The Eucharist, well prayed, is what helps us to stir into a flame the grace we received in baptism. And it’s from the Eucharist, from Jesus who speaks here and then feeds us here, that we go out to proclaim these most marvelous gifts of all to the whole world!

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 2 Tm 1:1-8

Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God
for the promise of life in Christ Jesus,
to Timothy, my dear child:
grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father
and Christ Jesus our Lord.I am grateful to God,
whom I worship with a clear conscience as my ancestors did,
as I remember you constantly in my prayers, night and day.
I yearn to see you again, recalling your tears,
so that I may be filled with joy,
as I recall your sincere faith
that first lived in your grandmother Lois
and in your mother Eunice
and that I am confident lives also in you.

For this reason, I remind you to stir into flame
the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.
For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice
but rather of power and love and self-control.
So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord,
nor of me, a prisoner for his sake;
but bear your share of hardship for the Gospel
with the strength that comes from God.

Responsorial Psalm PS 96:1-2a, 2b-3, 7-8a, 10

R. (3) Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD; bless his name.
R. Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Announce his salvation, day after day.
Tell his glory among the nations;
among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.
R. Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Give to the LORD, you families of nations,
give to the LORD glory and praise;
give to the LORD the glory due his name!
R. Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Say among the nations: The LORD is king.
He has made the world firm, not to be moved;
he governs the peoples with equity.
R. Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.

Alleluia SEE MT 11:25

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth;
you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the Kingdom.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel mk 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds:
“This is how it is with the Kingdom of God;
it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land
and would sleep and rise night and day
and the seed would sprout and grow,
he knows not how.
Of its own accord the land yields fruit,
first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.
And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once,
for the harvest has come.”He said,
“To what shall we compare the Kingdom of God,
or what parable can we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
With many such parables
he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.
Without parables he did not speak to them,
but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.