January 26, 2015
Monday of week 3 in Ordinary Time
(Saints Timothy and Titus, Bishops)
Stir into flame the gift of God.
Timothy and Titus were “stewards.” But no more so than the rest of us. St. Paul tells us we should all “think of ourselves in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries.” Peter adds: “Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.”
Being ordained bishop like Timothy and Titus doesn’t make one “more” of anything. It just specifies some particular functions that go with that particular gift, and allots the authority needed to perform them. We all have gifts, and, whatever they are, “it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy” (1Corinthians 4:1; 1Peter 4:10).
Saint Paul teaches that “each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift…”
The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.
And he draws the conclusion:
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:1).
So what is this “manifold grace of God” of which we are all stewards?
We can’t answer in one word, precisely because it is “manifold.” But as Paul continues his letter to Timothy, he gives us one element to focus on: “Our Savior Jesus Christ has destroyed death and brought life to light through the Gospel.”
We need to make people aware that Jesus has “destroyed death.” The problem is that the very ones who most need to hear it, those “who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Luke 1:79), frequently don’t recognize either the darkness or the death in their lives. They think they see all they need to see, and that their lives are all they should be. They don’t “hunger and thirst for righteousness,” because to them their lives seem good and full enough already. They are “rich”—in money, to some extent, but above all in knowledge and virtue; at least in their own minds. Rich enough to be indifferent to or skeptical about God and religion. Of them Jesus says, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They have our sympathy. “Blessed are the poor in spirit—those who know they ‘haven’t got it made’—for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3; 19:24).
Those who presume they can manage perfectly well without God might be shaken out of their complacency by the thunderous words God spoke in answer to Job’s complaints about his government of the universe:
Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind:
Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? …I will question you, and you shall declare to me.
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! …Who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?
Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb... when I prescribed bounds for it… and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stopped’?
Have you commanded the morning… and caused the dawn to know its place?
Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep? Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?
Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this. Where is the way to the dwelling of light, and where is the place of darkness…? (Job 38:1).
Those who “sit in darkness and in the shadow of death” need to be given some inkling of the light they don’t see, and of the “breadth and length and height and depth” of life they can’t even imagine until they “know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.”
To give them that is our job as “stewards of God’s mysteries” and of “the manifold grace of God.” Today’s readings remind us: “Stir into flame the gift of God that you have.”
When Jesus was speaking about “the faithful and prudent manager whom his master will put in charge of his household,” he said, “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!”
“From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded” (Luke 12:42).
So do you choose to let Jesus stir you into flame?
Pray: “Lord, make e an instrument of your peace!”
Practice: Notice limitations. Ask how God enables us to transcend them.
Discuss: What would you say to people who are satisfied to live without religion?