Measuring Out like SS. Timothy and Titus, January 26, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Thursday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of SS. Timothy and Titus
January 26, 2017
2 Tim 1:1-8, Ps 96, Mk 4:21-25

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily (which was truncated because of a malfunction in the recorder), 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 spread the Gospel and who were installed by him as important bishops among the first Christian communities, the Church has us focus on the Word of God they heard, lived and announced. It’s an opportunity for us to examine how we are doing on each score.
  • First, we can focus on how we hear the Word of God. Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel, “Take care what you hear” and “Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear.”  Jesus is calling us to pay attention, to listen well to what he’s saying, to see the gift of hearing above all to hear him. We ought to be at the edge of our seats when Jesus speaks, attentive to every word, remembering it, pondering it in our hearts, placing it together with what he’s taught us before and letting it become a foundation for what he wishes to teach us later in our prayer, in our listening to Sacred Scripture, in what he reveals to us in day-to-day events. He wants us to take such care of what we hear that we treasure what he reveals, nourishing it, watering the seeds of his word. If we didn’t have the feast of the conversion of St. Paul yesterday, we would have heard the Gospel of the Parable of the Sower and the Seed, and he wants us to receive his word on good soil, so that we might bear abundant fruit.
  • That leads us to the second point: allowing the Word of God thoroughly to transform us. Jesus begins today’s Gospel asking, “Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lampstand? For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible; nothing is secret except to come to light.” He’s telling us that the Word of God received within us is meant to shine through us. Through his holy Word, God has lit the lamp of our minds and hearts and he doesn’t want us to place that gift under a bushel basket or a bed but on a lamp stand so that it may through us illumine others. The Word is not supposed to be a secret, but a key that unlocks the secret of human life.
  • Third, we are called to share that word with others. God has generously shared it with us and wants us generously to share it with others, because the extent to which we share it will be a sign of the extent to which we have received it. He tells us, that the “measure with which you measure will be measured out to you and still more will be given to you. To the one who has, more will be given; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” This is basically the law of “use or it or lose it,” which every student, every athlete, every musician knows. The more we learn, the more we can learn. The more we work out, the more we can work out and the tougher the exercises we can do. The more we practice the piano, the more our talent develops; the less we practice, the more we lose our ability. Any teacher will tell you that if you really want to learn something, try to teach it to others. Unless we use a gift, the gift atrophies. It’s similar with the light of the teaching he gives us: the more we give it, the more we’ll receive it, and if we don’t pass it on to others, we’re at risk for losing it. The measure with which we measure is measured back to us. The way we let the light shine, the way we take care of the word, is to measure it out, so that we may not only grow in our possession of the light of his word but also grow in our giving it away.
  • That’s the lesson the Church wants us to see in the holy lives of SS. Timothy and Titus, something that the proper readings for the epistle and Psalm convey. e repeated five times in today’s Responsorial Psalm, “Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations!” That is meant to be a description and an imperative for all Christians. To spread the Gospel, to measure it out, to let its light shine, is to spread knowledge of God’s marvelous deeds. 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.” To proclaim our faith is to do just that. This is what it means to share the Gospel. 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. That Gospel is a living compilation of God’s marvelous deeds, past and ever present. The preaching of the Gospel is not meant to be something in which we literally “scare the Hell” out of people. It’s supposed to be the heralding fundamentally of God’s salvific love. Saints Timothy and Titus learned how to proclaim the Gospel in this way from St. Paul himself. We can see what St. Paul wrote to St. Timothy at the beginning of today’s first reading. He wrote about the “promise of life in Christ Jesus,” that Jesus came to give us life to the full. He described the “grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” He mentioned that he was “grateful to God” because he was able to “worship with a clear conscience as [his] ancestors did,” because they had passed on the faith and the importance of a clean conscience to him, just as Timothy had received a “sincere faith” from his grandmother and mother. This is the good news!
  • But for us to be able to do this, we must live the faith as good news, we must receive the gift of what we’ve heard and generously measure it out lest we lose it. That’s why 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 when it does, then we are capable of proclaiming with tongues of fire God’s incredible works. That’s also why he said, “Do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord,” because when we grasp its life-saving good news for us and for others, how can we not share it? Today’s a day on which we can evaluate how our flame of faith is doing. Has the pilot light ignited in baptism still burning or has it been extinguished so that all that’s coming out is gas? If it’s still burning, is it on low or have we allow God truly to turn us all the way up? If the flame is truly stirring, then the fruit will be demonstrable in the way we’re trying to share the faith, by the way we’re blessing God’s name, telling his glory, and announcing his kingdom to those we meet. To do this, however, St. Paul tells us that we need to grasp that the Gospel we’re proclaiming is truly good news. There are many Catholics who treat our faith as bad news, especially the Church’s teaching in controversial areas. Nowhere is the Gospel more culturally controversial than in areas of human love, sexuality, marriage and family. Many Catholics, and sadly many priests, think that Christ’s and his Church’s teaching about chastity, about keeping love pure and holy, is horrible news of which they should be embarrassed. Rather than a gift, many view it as a curse. And for that reason, we’re afraid to talk about the Church’s teaching because we fear we’ll burden or anger — rather than help heal, save and enlighten — those who, for example, are contracepting in marriage, or living with someone to whom God hasn’t joined them in one flesh by a true marriage, or living promiscuously, or engaging in a gay lifestyle. Rather than seeking to liberate them from diabolical seductions that corrupt the real meaning of self-sacrificial love, we keep our mouths shut and keep the medicine of the Gospel locked up pretending that it’s toxic rather than salutary. That’s why St. Paul’s words, “Do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord,” are just as important for us as they were to his young collaborator. He reminds us all, “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.” He urges us to “bear [our] share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.” People may not always receive the Good News as Good News, but we can’t be ashamed of the Gospel. One of his greatest deeds is to take people like the promiscuous St. Augustine and make them one of the greatest saints in history.
  • 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. 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 I 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 PS 119:105

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
A lamp to my feet is your word,
a light to my path.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 4:21-25

Jesus said to his disciples,
“Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket
or under a bed,
and not to be placed on a lampstand?
For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible;
nothing is secret except to come to light.
Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear.”
He also told them, “Take care what you hear.
The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you,
and still more will be given to you.
To the one who has, more will be given;
from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”