Since today is the memorial of Timothy and Titus, our readings
focus on early Christian leaders living out their faith. Chronologically,
the gospel shares some of what Jesus and his apostles faced as they
began their ministry while the first readings share this info regarding
Paul, Timothy, and Titus. Timothy and Titus were contemporaries
of Paul, leaders of the Christian communities in Ephesus and Crete
respectively. With all of the days’ readings, we get a sense
of what it was like for the earliest Christians to follow Jesus.
Nor even like some of my acquaintances. Over the Christmas holiday, I went to see “I am Legend” with a friend and his mother. After the movie, the woman, whom I had just met, started talking right away about how she liked uplifting movies because they helped her feel closer to Jesus Christ. From there, she started sharing about her faith and what Jesus means to her. As a cradle-Catholic, there was a time in my life that even hearing someone give “testimony” like this would make me feel uncomfortable. While I am more comfortable now listening and sharing myself with folks who want to talk about faith, I am probably still not the type of person who would initiate this kind of conversation with someone I had just met….even though I also prefer uplifting movies that move me towards Jesus!
The Gospel, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and St. Ignatius in his Spiritual Exercises all tell us that love ought to show itself more in deeds than in words, that we ought to focus more on acting like Christians by loving one another than by going around TALKING about being a Christian. While I know part of the lesson intended is about not being a hypocrite, I have co-opted this directive for my own devices, using it as a reason for me to rarely talk about being a Christian. Why? Because of what happened to Jesus and his followers in today’s gospel passage. After beginning his ministry, he returns home where his friends and relatives reject him and think he is crazy.
When I am brutally honest with myself, I have to admit that I have lived most of my life yearning and seeking approval and love from others. I do not greet others like Paul or the woman at the movie theater because I fear that if I do, I will be rejected like Jesus. Because of the freedom I enjoy within this American democracy, I do not fear rejection in the form of martyrdom. I know I will probably never be rejected, as Jesus was, to the degree of being murdered for my faith. But, in spite of this freedom, I have been reticent to speak about my faith openly and freely simply because I fear people thinking I am crazy and/or disapproving of me and/or withholding their love from me.
I’m trying to change this now. I still believe my love and faith ought to show itself primarily in deeds. But, I also want the very actions of my tongue to be deeds of love and faith. I pray now that I follow Jesus first and foremost, even if that ultimately leads my friends and relatives to disapprove of me, withhold their love, or even “seize me saying ‘she is out of her mind.’”
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