In the First Letter to Timothy, Saint Paul wrote, “But you,
man of God, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and
gentleness. Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which you
were called when you made the noble confession in the presence of many
witnesses” (6:11-12). Paul was reminding his young coworker that his position
within the Church demanded total dedication to God and a faithful witness to
Christ. By calling him “man of God,” Paul is also highlighting the fact that
Timothy shares the vocation of Moses and the prophets (cf. Deuteronomy 33:1; 1
Samuel 2:27; 1 Kings 12:22 and 13:1; 1 Timothy 1:12-20). Although few of us are
bishops like Timothy (cf. 1 Timothy 1:3), each of us shares in the pastoral and
prophetic work of the Church. Because of this, Paul’s admonition to Timothy is
also addressed to each one of us—we must seek those things that are of God and
“compete well for the faith,” that is, persevere in living out our individual,
unique vocation of service to God and the Church. Paul, Timothy, and the saints
mentioned above, understood that this dedication demands something of
us—perhaps not the martyrdom of Wenceslaus and Lawrence Ruiz or a cloistered
life like Thérèse—but that it also takes us outside of ourselves, empowering us
to live for God and for others.
Saint Theodora Guerin (d. 1856)
The Foundress of the Indiana-based
Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods
Jesus’ parable of Lazarus and the rich man offers us an insight into what is required of us. In his encyclical Spes Salvi (“Saved in Hope”), Pope Emeritus Benedict wrote, “Jesus admonishes us through the image of a soul destroyed by arrogance and opulence, who has created an impassable chasm between himself and the poor man; the chasm of being trapped within material pleasures, the chasm of forgetting the other, of incapacity to love, which then becomes a burning and unquenchable thirst” (¶44).
The saints, who have oriented their lives toward the Other, who have realized the fullness of humanity’s capacity for love, see in the “Lazaruses” of the world friends and brothers/sisters: “Created in the image of the one God and equally endowed with rational souls, all have the same nature and the same origin. Redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ, all are called to participate in the same divine beatitude: all enjoy the same dignity” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1934). But, this call to be with and for others isn’t mandate only for those who have been canonized or beatified—the Communion of Saints includes each of us, me and you, because, after all, “what is the Church if not the gathering of the saints?” (Saint Nicetas of Remesiana).
Competing “well for the faith”—living our call to be disciples and to manifest the presence of Christ in the world—leaves no room for selfish ambition, apathy, complacency, or indifference to the plight of others (cf. Amos 6:1a, 4-7). This isn’t about political agendas, government budgets, or some radical/liberal ideology—this is about the Gospel which forms the starting point and is the focus of our faith.
Prayer for the Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time +
O God, who manifest your almighty power
above all by pardoning and showing mercy,
bestow, we pray, your grace abundantly upon us
and make those hastening to attain your promises
heirs to the treasures of heaven.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal)