When kneeling keeps us in good standing – Friday, 23rd week in ordinary time–I Timothy 1: 1-2, 12-14
From today, our scripture readings focus on St Paul’s letter to Timothy. Along with the letter to Titus, these letters form what are called the Pastoral Epistles because they are addressed to shepherds or pastors of the Christian communities and because they deal with church life and practice.
Timothy, like Titus was one of Paul’s closest companions. Timothy was born of mixed Jewish and pagan parentage and at some stage becomes a Christian and a follower of Paul; this after meeting him at Lystra (Acts 16: 1-3). He serves as Paul’s representative on missions to Thessalonica, to Corinth and probably also to Philippi. He was in close contact with Paul during his imprisonment in Ephesus and was with him in Corinth when the letter to Romans was written(JBC).
The letter of St Paul to Timothy is interesting because in these letters, we get a picture of an infant Church caught in a ‘sea of paganism.’ The early Christians were constantly lured back to their old ways. Once again, as in the Colossian community, false teachers attempted to lure the community to teachings of Jewish myths, the promotion of extreme asceticism which opposed marriage, the abstinence from food and the belief that the resurrection of the believers was already accomplished.
In the passage of today, Paul presents his credentials and his right to defend the Church. Ironically it is not a list of achievements as much as his sin of being a blasphemer and a violent persecutor (verse 13). He persecuted Christ in so much as he persecuted Christ’s followers. However he defends his sins as they originated from ignorance (verse 13).
The reference to ignorance is deliberate. According to Jewish law, sacrifice could only be offered as atonement for sins which were committed through ignorance, and not deliberately. Besides, for a sacrifice to be valid, atonement for sin also demanded contrition (being sorry) on the part of the sinner and Paul expresses this sorrow repeatedly.
Why does Paul call to mind his sins? It almost seems like Paul has not experienced forgiveness from the Lord. On the contrary, he does it so that the memory of his sin would keep him from pride! It would keep him grateful and it would keep him striving to greater effort.
Kneeling in humility keeps us in good standing before the Lord.
Fr Warne D’Souza
References taken from the Jerome’s Biblical Commentary.
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