A band of Brothers- Wednesday, 24th week in ordinary time- 1 Timothy 3:14-16

A band of Brothers- Wednesday, 24th week in ordinary time- 1 Timothy 3:14-16

Reading the text and its context will help you understand these reflections whose principle purpose is to teach

Most scholars agree that the letters of St Paul to Timothy are a creation of a pseudonymous (unknown), and later follower of Paul. There are a number of scholarly reasons to support this thought. However, even though it is written by someone else under Paul’s name, the Pastoral letters are not “forgeries”. The Jerome Biblical commentary explains this well.

“Within the Greco- Roman philosophical tradition, the writing of pseudonymous epistles was a long standing tradition. In such a case the writer sought to extend the thought of his or her intellectual master to the problems of a later day. What the writer was saying in effect was, ‘my master would surely have said this if faced with this set of problems or issues’. It is quite likely that the original readers of this letter knew very well that the letters represented an effort to extend his heritage to later generation” (JBC).

The writer and the readers of this letter knew that Paul’s death had caused a long delay. Yet he had been providing the Church with proper instructions for its conduct in God’s household (oikos).  We need to understand what this ‘household’ is and what we mean by the word ‘behave’.

The understanding of God’s house or household went through various stages in the Early Church. In its Biblical context, this word referred to Israel and pastorally it referred to the temple in Jerusalem. For the community that received this letter, written in Paul’s name, the household of God was a clear reference to the early Christian community. Paul uses it to reflect the character of the Christian communities that met in homes; they must be a band of brothers.

It is to these recipients, this band of brothers, that the writer of the letter sets the tone and tenor of the communities’ behavior. ‘Anasterephesthai’ has been loosely translated in English as behavior, but it might best be described as a person’s manner of life as seen in his daily routine. For the writer of the Pastorals, the Christian’s manner of life must stand out over the manner of life of the false teachers and pagans. This manner of life thus becomes the greatest advertisement for the ‘mystery of their religion’, as opposed to the mystery religions of false teachers.

The Christian’s manner of life must be beyond reproach, for the ‘mystery of God’s revelation’ was Christ who appeared in the flesh (verse 16). Hence every Christian is the standard bearer of Christ; it is a flag that he or she must carry and hence be a model of Christian living, worthy of the name of Christ, which they bear.

Paul uses several words to describe what this household of God must be like (verse 15). He calls it the Church of the living God (ekklesia), a company of people who have been called out; not selected, but called. This Church must be the pillar of truth (stulos). The reference to pillars would find a resonance in the lives of the people of Asia Minor to whom this letter was written. Ephesus which was in Asia Minor was home to the Temple of Diana. This was one of the Seven Wonders of the World, which was famed for its 127 pillars. The word ‘pillar’ here is used not in the sense of support, but that Christians, like the pillars, must stand out.

In yesterday’s readings we focused on the behaviour of Christian leaders; today’s reading completes the circle of responsibility. Too often we question the behaviour of the Church (read leaders of the Church). Finger pointing seems to have become a habit. What’s that they say about pointing a finger? Three point back at you! The Church is best represented as a clenched fist of unity where all of us share the responsibility of living up to the name of Christ by our behaviour. We are to be a band of brothers and sisters.

Fr Warner D’souza

With a lot of help from the JBC

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