The thirty-second Sunday after Pentecost
(1 Tim. 4 : 9 – 16)
There are many ideas and topics for discussion that can be found in today’s epistle reading, but I would like to concentrate on two of them.
The first thing that comes to our attention is that St. Paul says that the living God is the “saviour of all men, especially of those who believe” (1 Tim. 4:10).
How should we understand the statement that God is the saviour of all people.
Of course, if we chose to understand this text superficially, we could very well sit back and indulge in doing whatever we please, still hoping for salvation. Does the Apostle mean that all sinners, including the worst criminals such as Hitler, Stalin, Clinton as well as all the murderers and criminals in human history, will all go straight to heaven, and that St. Peter will not ask them even their names, let alone anything about their past deeds.
But then we hear the words of our Lord as He speaks to us of two paths: the narrow and thorny path which few men choose to walk, and the wide, comfortable path on which the majority travels, straight to their death (Mt. 7:13-14). Does no the Lord warn us that at the end of the world as we know it, “all the nations will be gathered before Him and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats” (Mt. 25;32-33). “So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Mt. 13:49-50). Even St. Paul, in his second epistle to the Corinthians, says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10).
It is clear, brothers and sisters, from all that is written in the Gospels, that God will judge all of us so it is prudent to watch every step we take. We see from his epistles that St. Paul especially likes the word, “especially.” He always uses it to emphasize a thought or to support it. In his epistle to the Galatians, he encourages us to do good to everyone, “especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). And: “All the saints greet you, but especially those who are of Caesar’s household” (Phil. 4:22). There are many examples, but from these two examples we gather that “all” and “to all” means the opposite: you cannot do good to everyone, you are not strong enough to do so. Limit yourself, then, to your brethren in the faith. Do good to them – it is easier and you are obliged to do so. It is highly improbable that before writing his epistle to the Philippians, St. Paul went from one Christian to another to personally take their greetings and send them to the Philippians.
In this case, St. Paul means that God is the saviour of all men, for all men were given the same capacity. God did not say, “because you are white, or black, or yellow, there is no salvation for you, or because you are a man or a woman, a Jew or a Greek.” St. Paul writes to the Colossians, “there is no Jew nor Greek, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all” (Col. 3:11). The Lord is the same to ever man, He is “rich to all who call upon Him” (Rom. 10:12). The Lord will call to Himself only those who seek salvation through Him.
The other theme which I would like to reflect on is St. Paul’s advice to his young disciple Timothy, his successor on the episcopal throne of Ephesus, not to neglect the gift of grace that was given to him by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership (1 Tim. 4:14).
St. Paul loved Timothy, he gave him advice as to his own son and supported him. In fact, he even calls him his son when he addresses him personally (1 Tim. 1:2; 1 Tim. 1:18). When he speaks to others about him, he calls him brother (2 Cor. 1:1; Philemon 1:1; Heb. 13:23). Timothy also loved and respected his teacher and older brother. We see, from St. Paul’s second epistle to Timothy , that Timothy took St. Paul’s advice and that St. Paul was now reminding him to stir up the gift of God he had received through the laying of hands (2 Tim. 1:6).
All that St. Paul said to Timothy, brothers and sisters, applies to us. Otherwise, there would be no reason for the reading of epistles during holy liturgy, if their message did not apply to us. Each one of us without exception has received some sort of gift from the Lord. Some gifts are greater and some are lesser (Mt. 25:14-30). “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them” (Rom. 12:6). “There are diversities of gifts but the same spirit” (1 Cor. 12:4). “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills” (1 Cor. 12:11).
All of our gifts has the same goal – attaining perfection and spiritual progress. The Apostle compares this to the purpose of the physical body: even the least important part of the human body has its importance and serves a certain purpose. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you’” (1 Cor. 12:21). It is the same everywhere, brothers and sisters, in our homes, as well as in the Church, which is home to all of us. Each one of us is important inasmuch as he or she shares his or her gifts to the benefit of the Church and all of us. The Apostle tells us not to neglect and extinguish this gift for doing good works.
Let us look at an example. Some time during the week, as you rush around performing your daily tasks, it occurs to you that it would be good to go to church on Sunday, offer up prayers, light a candle, see your brothers and sisters and spend some time in conversation with them. Do not put this thought out of your head, do not extinguish this ray of God’s light in your mind, do not allow the weeds of profane thoughts to suffocate it: how tired you are, how Sunday is the only day when you can sleep in and rest. Do not extinguish this gift of grace, but rather, let it burn on. Come to church, offer up this small sacrifice to God in return for the abundant gifts which He gives to you every day.
Furthermore, bring, do or donate what God gave you as a gift. A list of all the possibilities would be too long. We cannot all be tribal chiefs, we also need warriors. Everyone should do their share and everyone will get their reward from God
The Apostle’s message – do not neglect the gifts of grace that we were given – should be reason enough for each one of us to look at the gifts we have been given and to decide how to offer it up to the Lord. If you cannot make a meal as delicious as our sisters make, then you could perhaps help to serve it. If you cannot sing as well as our cantors, you could still weave your voice into the chanting and contribute to the beauty of glorifying God. The possibilities are as endless as the gifts with which God has endowed us
Let us not neglect our gifts, but let us multiply them, serving the Lord. Amen