Today's Reading from Timothy
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.
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.
He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began, but now made manifest through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus, who destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel, for which I was appointed preacher and Apostle and teacher. On this account I am suffering these things; but I am not ashamed, for I know him in whom I have believed and am confident that he is able to guard what has been entrusted to me until that day.
The Word of the Lord
This reading has always been one of my absolute favorites. It is hard in a time when Catholicism is very definitely 'counter-culture' to profess the words 'I am not ashamed'. I've always felt that this reading was a sort of sacred manifesto of the modern Catholic. I hold the words tightly to my chest when I am feeling afraid of sharing my identity, given to me by God's grace, and by the 'imposition of hands' at my confirmation. I am a child of God, and I am 'confident that He is able to guard what has been entrusted to me'.
I admit I do not feel confident today. I feel raw and beaten down. I imagine, like so many Christians around the world, we feel like we are on some sort of terrible theme park ride where there is no foreseeable end. Watching the suffering of our brothers and sisters in Christ of color, the subsequent societal unrest, all amidst the darkness of the COVID-19 pandemic, I find myself crying out to God: "Mercy God. Have mercy on us!".
And those are the big issues facing us right? There are little ones too that contribute to the nausea of our current ride. The social isolation, the lack of connection, work demands, the valid disappointment and anxiety of our children, the ceaseless parenting and homeschooling, navigating a 24/7 marriage, the dishes, the laundry, all amounting to the overwhelming fear that we are failing. Failing big time.
It is on these weeks where I need to turn to God's word. And isn't God good? He gives us these:
'For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.'
What a vivid painting of the Holy Spirit who lives in me.
Not a spirit of cowardice. I am brave because God enables me to be brave.
Power. God have given me the power to do anything through Christ who strengthens me. Even to forgive when it seems impossible.
Love. God gives me the Spirit to love. Even when I don't have the words, because most often love is more about listening.
Self-control. God gives me the Spirit of self-control because in times of raw emotion we can say things to one another that just might make an indelible mark on their heart for all time. God enables me to control my tongue in order to refine my heart.
I would like to say that God's word to me (and to you) in our first reading today lifted the burden that we are carrying; but it doesn't entirely. The promise of God's word is a light unto my path; not a floodlight changing the landscape entirely. It gives me the grace to take the next step in safety. So today Paul's words to Timothy will be that small light at my feet to bear my share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.