No politics, please. Saturday, 23rd Week in ordinary time- I Timothy 1:15-17
When our minds are enraptured by a fascinating or life changing thought, then our conversations, vocabulary and writings become an extension of that thought. Our repetitive words and sentences are indicative of the thoughts occupying our mind. If we hate something we would end up talking about it all day long and everyone knows better not to utter the word that might set off the next world war. The same holds if we love someone; their name is ever on our lips our minds recalling every detail of their being. It could be a gadget we have bought, a place we have visited or a person we have met if we love it we talk about it.
St Paul has a love that he can’t stop talking about and that is seen in our reading of today. The reading is part of a larger doxology (a liturgical formula of praise to God) wherein Paul pens the name of Christ Jesus four times in six verses. In all of his letters he mentions Jesus two hundred and eighteen times. I guess you know what’s on Paul’s mind for his agenda is clear.
Paul had undergone a deep conversion on the road to Damascus. The scriptures do not tell us the precise moment that Saul the persecutor became Paul the preacher; and for very good reason. Conversion is not a moment, it’s a process and may I dare say, in some cases, one where we fall more than we stand. It was the acceptance of his calling to service (1:12) that prompted Paul the preacher to stand up and proclaim; and proclaim he did.
Paul’s great boast is not in his achievements, for in his own words he calls them ‘rubbish’ (Phil 3:8). His boast is in the fact that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1:15) like him. It would be presumptuous to state here that ALL sinners are saved by Jesus, for saving grace also demands contrition of sin. At the same time God’s mercy can’t be limited by humankind for God is God and His ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not ours.
Paul’s confesses both his sins as well as testifies to Christ’s mercy and he does this boldly and with no fear. In bringing this doxology to a close, Paul acknowledges Jesus as ‘King of the ages, immortal, invisible the ONLY God, to whom be honour and glory forever.’ These words may resonate in hymn and verse in modern society but make no mistake they were seditious at the time of Paul.
At this time, the Romans Emperors were at their height of power. If that was not enough, then they also threw in ‘godhead’ for good measure. Yes, the Emperor of Rome was God for the Romans. The letter of Paul was written during the Flavian Dynasty . It is this Dynasty which stretched from 69–96 A.D and gave history despots like Titus who destroyed the temple of Jerusalem and crushed the Jewish revolutions and Domitian under who the second wave of persecutions were unleashed on the Christians.
In such a scenario, Paul dares to call Jesus the King of all ages and the ONLY God. These simple words may elude us today but it did not miss the attention of the Romans who saw Paul and the Christians as traitors. Did Paul back down? Not at all, he took them all on and willingly gave his very life. Is there a lesson to be learnt here? I think so!
Given the political climate across the world, I think it’s time we throw political correctness into the garbage where it belongs. Proclamation now seems to hide behind politics, if not a more charming form called diplomacy. Having said this I must emphasize that love MUST be the driving principle for evangelization.
To this thought, add the principle of reciprocity which also must be practiced. You can’t take advantage of the liberal openness of other nations that you adopt as home; nations that freely permit you to propagate your faith in their and now your adoptive country, while back home you suppress all other religious minorities and ethnic groups.
Paul knew that Jesus must be proclaimed but that proclamation must be done with love and mutual respect. It is this moral high ground that Paul had the advantage of, a moral high ground that could bring him to pen the end of this pericope with a resounding AMEN.
Fr Warner D’Souza
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