Stirring into a Flame the Gift of God We’ve Received, SS. Timothy and Titus, January 26, 2015

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Monday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of SS. Timothy and Titus
January 26, 2015
2 Tim 1:1-8, Ps 96, Mk 3:22-30

 

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

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • “Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations!” That’s what we repeated five times in today’s Responsorial Psalm. It is meant to be a description and an imperative for all Christians. To spread the Gospel 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. Today we celebrate the Memorial of Saints Timothy and Titus, two of St. Paul’s most important collaborators. They were those who 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!
  • For us to be able to proclaim the Gospel of God’s wondrous deeds to all the nations, however, we have to know what those deeds are and to recognize that they don’t happen in a vacuum. In the Gospel, we see some of those marvelous deeds in the follow-up to Jesus’ many exorcisms. Jesus had come into the world to defeat the power of the evil one, to bind the “strong man” and “plunder his house.” He was doing so, and those who were open to faith couldn’t restrain themselves from proclaiming what he was doing to others, even when he instructed them not to make him known. But there were others, hostile to true faith because of the idol that they had made of their own religious ideas, that rather than thanking God sought to deny the finger of God the Father working through Jesus. We see that today as people began to say, illogically, that Jesus was casting out the devil by the power of the devil. No matter what he did, not matter what he said, they were prepared to deny that Jesus was carrying out a divine mission. This is why Jesus spoke to them at the end about blaspheming against the Holy Spirit, denying God’s work and actually calling it diabolical.
  • One of the great lessons we need to learn if we’re going to proclaim God’s wondrous deeds as an ever new song is that Jesus, likewise, has cast the devil out of us. He freed us from the grip of the devil by the exorcism that occurred in our baptism and has continued to do so every time we have made a good sacramental confession. This is a tremendous cause for us to proclaim the “grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord” by the power of that same Spirit. On the day of our baptism, we were baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Mt 3:11) and the reality of Christ’s work is something that should lead us to see his tune as an ever new song with gusto. That’s why St. Paul would say to us, like he said to St. Timothy, “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.
  • But let’s evaluate. How is our flame 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 says to St. Timothy and to all of us today, “Do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord.” 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, just like those in the Gospel accused Jesus of healing by the devil’s power, 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.
  • Today as we come forward on the feast of Saints Timothy and Titus, we’re grateful for the faith we have received from our ancestors, the faith that brought us to receive God’s holy flame symbolized by our baptismal candle on the day we were christened, and we ask God to send the Holy Spirit to stir into a flame that great gift, so that, with no shame at all but great joy, we may proclaim God’s marvelous deeds, including the great daily miracle of the Eucharist, to all the nations, beginning with those we will meet today, and one-by-one light the world ablaze!

 

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 2 Tm 1:10

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Our Savior Jesus Christ has destroyed death
and brought life to light through the Gospel.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mk 3:22-30

The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said of Jesus,
“He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and
“By the prince of demons he drives out demons.”Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables,
“How can Satan drive out Satan?
If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
And if a house is divided against itself,
that house will not be able to stand.
And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided,
he cannot stand;
that is the end of him.
But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property
unless he first ties up the strong man.
Then he can plunder his house.
Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies
that people utter will be forgiven them.
But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit
will never have forgiveness,
but is guilty of an everlasting sin.”
For they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”