Sober words for a serious calling – Thursday, 24th week in ordinary time – 1Timothy 4:12-16
The epistle of St Paul to Timothy was written in a time that a wave of false teachings swept the church of Ephesus. Paul appointed Timothy to the office of ‘senior pastor’ to a very large church that he himself ministered to in Ephesus. The purpose was clear; to effectively combat the false teachings and their sources. As time passed by however, Timothy faced a challenge much broader than false teachers.
Timothy as Paul’s successor supervised leaders who were older than he; people who had previously been supervised by the great apostle himself. Some of these leaders were not very enthusiastic about being led by a youngster. In the first century, people up to the age of 40 were considered young. Many scholars believe Timothy was in his mid-thirties when he succeeded Paul. Most probably the false teachers also used Timothy’s young age as a weapon to underestimate his authority. The solution that Paul offered Timothy was to lead by example.
In the reading of today we hear sober words for a serious calling to an exemplary life style required of any church leader but in particular to Timothy. Timothy was clearly a stop gap arrangement for Paul truly desired to come back and minister to this group. It is for this reason that Paul says, “until I arrive..” In Paul we see an ardent minister who never ceases with his ministry. Paul could never conceive taking a holiday and we know that he never took a moment off even in prison to minister to those in need.
Paul asks Timothy to guard the deposit of faith but also to care for the public reading of scripture which was accompanied by an ‘exhorting’ or as we would call it, a homily and also to teach the sacred scriptures. These were practices followed in the Jewish synagogue and Paul wants the word of God not just to be alive but to thrive.
Paul acknowledges that Timothy was not just chosen because he passed a popularity contest in the community. It is quite evident that he was the object of jealousy from the elders who saw him as a new kid on the block. For Paul, Timothy has a gift which was passed on to him by the laying on of hands. This laying of hands was a direct link with Paul and the apostles. Timothy is not to neglect this gift.