Monday, January 26, 2009

Our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

January 25 is the feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul. The following day, January 26, is the feast of two of his followers, Timothy and Titus. Timothy was a mamzer: his mother was Jewish, and his father pagan. Timothy, together with his mother, Eunice and her mother, Lois, was converted to the Way of Jesus by Saint Paul, and joined him on his second missionary journey. Titus was a Greek from Antioch. He also was a disciple of Paul, as witnessed in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, “When I went to Troas … I had no relief in my spirit because my brother Titus was not there.”

Paul’s Letter to Timothy is one choice for the first reading of today’s Mass. In it, Paul expresses affection for his disciple, warmth that rarely appears in his letters to the Churches. He keeps the young bishop constantly in his prayers, and reminisces about the sincere faith he found in the home of Lois and Eunice, which lives on in Timothy, Lois’ grandchild and Eunice’s son, a gift of faith that bore great fruit when Timothy was ordained by the hands of Paul. He encourages Timothy to “stir into flame” the gift of faith he has received.

God speaks these words to you and me in today’s epistle. God did not give us a cowardly spirit, but a powerful spirit of love and self-control. Each of us, in baptism, received the gift of faith at the hands of the priest, but it is our families that we received the example of who to live with faith. It is in the sacrament, in the community, and in particular in the family that we become whole and holy.

In his letter to Titus, Paul asks his young friend, the Bishop of Crete, that God's people must be subject to their rulers and obedient to the law of the land.  They must be ready to do good, to be peaceful and considerate, to slander no one, and to show true humility to others.

Some time in December, after the elections but before the new year began, I saw a car with a bumper sticker that read "Impeach Obama!"   As I read the Letter of Paul to Titus this evening, I was reminded of Paul's admonition to him that "God's people must be subject to their rulers."  I was also reminded of yesterday's reading, how Saul of Tarsus was "knocked off his high horse" while on his way to Damascus where he going to arrest disciples of the Way of Jesus and bring them back to Jerusalem to be executed.  Instead, his eyes were opened to the truth and he became a stalwart defender of and apologist for the Christian faith.

Earlier today, I was one of the recipients of a message from my brother-in-law, Dr. Richard A. Watson, a member of the Executive Board of the Catholic Medical Association.  I would like to share it with you, gentle readers, because it echos the message of Paul to his young friends Timothy and Titus.
It looks like the years ahead are going to be rough – very rough – for advocates of the unborn. The forces of abortion are powerfully aligned against us. In the darkest moments, it may prove helpful to recall and share these words of inspiration and to remember who first said them.

“For those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.”
President Barack Obama - Inaugural Address, 20 January 2009.

Let’s pray for a conversion of the sincere, but profoundly misguided hearts and minds of those who now so aggressively oppose us.

I am not a prophet, nor is my brother-in-law.  It would be wonderful if the simple and straightforward eloquence of the President of the United States could someday be directed toward the defense of the most vulnerable members of human society -- those who are not yet born.   But, even if, in God's permissive will, that does not happen, it is already a blessing that the message he spoke, in a different context, in opposition to a different agent of slaughter and terror, can be used word-for-word as a rallying cry in the defense of all human life, from the first moment to the last.

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