Not many of us routinely correspond via a hand written letter. Such a letter is a special event. A hand written love letter is something really special. Something to be saved and savored. The gift within the love letter is sacramental.
Recently I had the occasion to re-read love letters written in 1910. They were written by a newly engaged young couple. After the engagement she was left with her parents in Istanbul, Turkey while he was sent to Cairo, Egypt on temporary duty. His letters overflow with passionate longing and desire for his “childlike” beloved. He is missing her terribly; anxiously and enthusiastically looking forward to their being together again and to their wedding. In strong clear penmanship he praises her beauty and talents, commends her intellect and insightfulness all the while encouraging her athleticism. Apparently she is a vision of unassuming loveliness as she takes to the tennis court, trouncing most opponents all the while balancing a wide brimmed sun bonnet and navigating effortlessly in an ankle length white flowing skirt.
Her letters penned in a delicate graceful hand are more hesitant.
Her message is of a more genteel nature, but none the less full
of loving commitment and yearning. Her letters carry family, social
and political news of the week. Both writers sprinkle their letters
with terms of endearment and references to past encounters. Each
recalling and relishing those very special events, times and moments
when they were last together. Each one sends encouragement to keep
safe, to enjoy friends and activities and to continue in their committed
love with the “blessing of the Good Lord.”
Paul’s letter to Timothy is just such a letter – not between an engaged couple, but between two very dear friends who have journeyed together. They are devoted to each other and committed to Jesus. Paul refers to Timothy as “my dear child” blessing him with the “grace, mercy and peace from God…and Jesus…” He likewise recalls common events and shared attitudes: “I am grateful to God…I remember you constantly in my prayers…I yearn to see you…that I may be filled with joy…” “I recall your sincere faith…I am confident that (faith) lives in you.” Paul goes on to encourage Timothy “to stir into flame the gift of God that you have…of power and love.”
The young couple’s love letters have filled the hearts of their children and grandchildren. As I read, I delight in my grandparents’ love expressed almost 100 years ago. I receive their gift of love. I participate in their love. I am loved.
Paul’s letter written from a Roman prison cell almost 2,000 years ago has traveled far beyond Timothy who was at the time thought to be in Ephesus, Turkey. Paul’s letter of sincere love, encouragement and commitment to Jesus reaches us today. Paul’s letter to Timothy is now Paul’s letter to all of us, to me. The sacramental blessing of Jesus’ grace, mercy and peace is now my blessing. Rather than eavesdropping, I listen to Paul’s words of love and encouragement as meant for me, to be received into my heart. Paul’s loving regard for Timothy is equally a loving regard for me to live in Jesus’ love, peace, grace and mercy. How do I receive this letter, this message of love and encouragement, these sacramental blessings?
This is the Good-News. I am invited to read and re-read this love letter. I am invited to receive the gift of the message into my heart. I am invited to participate in the ongoing love that is Jesus. I am invited to live in Love.
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