How long, O Lord? I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you, "Violence!" but you do not intervene. Why do you let me see ruin; why must I look at misery? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and clamorous discord. Then the Lord answered me and said: Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets, so that one can read it readily. For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late. The rash one has no integrity; but the just one, because of his faith, shall live.(P) The word of the Lord.
Come, let us sing joyfully to the Lord; let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation. Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us joyfully sing psalms to him. (R)
Come, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the Lord who made us. For he is our God, and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides. (R)
Oh, that today you would hear his voice: "Harden not your hearts as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the desert, where your fathers tempted me; they tested me though they had seen my works." (R)
Beloved: 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.
Take as your norm the sound words that you heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.(P) The word of the Lord.
The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith." The Lord replied, "If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, "Be uprooted and planted in the sea," and it would obey you."
"Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, "Come here immediately and take your place at table"? Would he not rather say to him, "Prepare something for me to eat. Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink. You may eat and drink when I am finished?" Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded? So should it be with you. When you have done all you have been commanded, say, "We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.""(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
We continue our study and reflection on the letters of Saint Paul to Timothy who is appointed to oversee the Ephesian Church. In the past three weeks, we have been reading the first letter of Paul, written during his missionary journey. Today's text is a part of his second letter to Timothy written as a prisoner from Rome. This is his last letter before he suffered martyrdom. Early church records Paul as having been beheaded in 67 A.D. by order of Nero, the Roman emperor at the time. So Paul writes this letter to Timothy in the midst of his isolation, loneliness, persecution, and imminent death. He writes to inspire and strengthen Timothy in his work. In order for Timothy to courageously move ahead in the preaching of the gospel Paul reminds Timothy of certain things.
First, Paul reminds Timothy always to be conscious of the presence of Jesus Christ. He says, "Stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands". What Paul means is that Timothy must consciously recognize and believe in the presence of Jesus Christ which has been given to him through the laying on of hands by Paul and others.
Second, Paul reminds Timothy of the spiritual resources at his disposal. He says, "For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love, and self-control." In other words, Timothy is reminded that God does not just give him the gift of the presence of Christ but also equips him with power, love and self-control. What is power? It is the power to cope, the power to face hardships, the power to persevere in faith and the power to overcome darkness. What is love? It is the love a Christian believer could witness every day to others in any situation. What is self-control? It is a special divine gift which gives the power to have control over one's senses and situations. For instance, we see Jesus in control while his disciples panic when they face a storm at sea. It is a special gift given to a believer to control his/her anger, greed, lust and other vices.
Third, Paul reminds Timothy of the gospel glory. He says, "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." Paul tells Timothy not to be ashamed of his testimony to Christ and his Gospel. To put it in a positive way, Paul reminds Timothy that the gospel of Jesus is worth suffering for, and therefore he must have an attitude of courage to speak and stand for Christ even if it costs him his life.
Fourth, Paul reminds him of the purity and truth of the Gospel message. He says, "Take as your norm the sound words that you heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us." Timothy is told to guard the gospel truth. He must guard the gospel of Jesus against those who would corrupt or change it in anyway.
What is the message for us?
First of all, it is important in the midst of hardships, pain, suffering and approaching death we instruct others to hold their faith in Jesus.
Second, it is important that we fan the flame that is already in us. Let us be conscious of the presence of Jesus Christ which has been given at the time of baptism. Let us remember the promise of Jesus Christ to be with us always in all circumstances and situations.
Third, it is important we gratefully recognize the power, love and self-control we are given to persevere in our faith.
Fourth, it is important that we are not ashamed of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Friends, we may not deny Jesus our Lord like his disciple Peter did nor deny association with Christian faith but there are times when we fail to speak up for Christ. There are times we are ashamed of Jesus and his Good News at some point in some place at some time. Many a time we choose to keep quiet in our work places because we fear what will happen if someone finds out or what others will say about us. There are times we also play down our faith at gatherings so that we won't offend anyone. There are times we are ashamed to make the sign of the cross in public places. There are times we are ashamed to hang the images of Jesus in our homes. There are times we are ashamed to wear anything Christian for fear of offending others. Most of all in today's world we are ashamed to teach our own children faith in Jesus. Why are we afraid or ashamed to tell them why we believe what we believe in? Friends, if we are ashamed to confess Christ, Jesus says, in the gospel of Mark (8:38), "For if anyone in this sinful and adulterous generation is ashamed of me and of my words, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."
In other words if we are ashamed to confess Christ, then He will be ashamed to confess us before God the Father. If we don't belong to Him then He doesn't belong to us. If we won't acknowledge Him, He won't acknowledge us. If God is not ashamed to be called our Father and if Christ is not ashamed to call us friends despite our sins, then how can we sinners possibly be ashamed of God and His Son Jesus Christ?
Fifth, it is important that we stand with those who suffer for the Lord and His Gospel. For instance, if we desire peace in our families then everyone in the family must bear their share of hardship.
Lastly, it is important that we guard the gospel truth. We are to hold fast the truth that has been given to us in the scriptures and guard it and then preach it everywhere we go.(P) Amen.
God Bless You!