26 January 2010 Memorial of Sts. Timothy and Titus
2 Tim 1, 1-8 or Titus 1, 1-5; Psalm 96; Mark 3, 31-35
We commemorate today St. Paul’s partners in his missionary work in the early church, namely Timothy and Titus. And incidentally, in this Year of Priests, we are having the 2nd National Congress of the Clergy at the Philippine World Trade Center in Pasay City. In this gathering, more than 5,000 priests will revitalize their vocations as they respond to Pope Benedict XVI’s call for their sanctification.
First, let’s talk about the two saints. Both Timothy and Titus were bishops serving the communities of Ephesus and Crete respectively. They were St. Paul’s trusted and closest friends. Timothy started out young when he began to assist Paul. In fact, Paul encouraged Timothy not to be encumbered by his youth when even talking to elders. Titus too shared a deep friendship with Paul. Below is an excerpt from Paul’s letters to the Corinthians:
“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).
At the core of these friendships was a deeper fellowship in service: they both shared in the apostolic missions of Paul. They were often sent to smoothen out challenging issues in the local churches that Paul founded. Timothy worked for Paul in the founding of the church in Corinth for 15 years. At some point, he was with Paul in Rome when Paul was arrested, and, like his mentor, Timothy was also imprisoned (Hebrews 13, 23). In addition, Titus too was sent by Paul to carry his letter to the Corinthians when the community was having great difficulties. It was said that the letter Titus bore to the Corinthians was one of St. Paul’s harshest. It was Titus’ personality, described as a peacemaker and administrator, that the issue in Corinth was solved.
Today, we can draw out from these ordinary men, an extraordinary pattern to help us live in holiness. They are united by a one and only love for Christ. It is what binds them. It is what inspires them. But the personal friendships that they share are not exclusive. It is a unity in dispersion: Their deep love for each other becomes the source of strength when they are dispersed, when they do their mission. They draw nourishment and strength, as St. Paul wrote, from each other in order for them to preach the Good News and to build a community. What makes us brothers and sisters is not so much that we are related by blood, as we are related by a common love and concern. Jesus says in the Gospel today, “Whoever does the will of God is brother, sister and mother to Me.” (Mark 3, 35) This, indeed, is a path to holiness.
Every saint is a “path” to holiness. As many as there are saints, they give us a thousand-and-one examples to lead a God-loving life. On the 23rd of January 2010, the Pope called Filipino bishops to work for the sanctification of priests so that they may be able to fulfill their mission in the church, in the modern world. Now, we are challenged to find do-able ways to be holy.
But we have to bear in mind that this is a universal call too: not only the clergy are called to holiness. We all are. And we are all “priests” by virtue of our baptism: we share the common priesthood of Christ. Just as Paul, Timothy and Titus developed means to preach the Gospel in their own specific and particular time, we too are to find new ways to evangelize and to build communities here and now. Thus, the path to holiness which Timothy and Titus took centuries ago can be adapted by all.
Pope Benedict XVI recently encouraged the priests to use the internet as a venue to practice their priesthood. He encouraged the clergy to particularly blog. And in order to practice what he just preached, the Pope opened a Facebook account, a website called Pope2U, and a Youtube channel so that we will be able to converse with him. New wine in new wineskins. [You’ll all find the links here. ]
I believe that we should not be afraid to explore new ways to make our faith relevant today. Many people in the church are often afraid to try out other ways. Because of this crippling fear, we just do the tried and tested. We have lost Jesus’ sense of radicality and daring. Just as Jesus observed: if the sons of evil find many ways to do evil, why can’t the good discover creative ways to do good?
Try this exercise: list as many as you can, how you want to exact revenge on someone who hurt you. And then, in a separate sheet, write down as many as you can, how you can show your concern for the victims of Haiti.