Friday, September 11, 2009

Grace, Mercy and Peace From God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord

Today, we begin reading another letter of Saint Paul: his first Epistle to Timothy (1:1-2, 12-14).

Paul begins this letter by identifying himself as “an apostle of Christ Jesus”. Timothy did not need Paul to write that he was an apostle; he knew Paul well, and had accompanied him on several of his apostolic missions. Indeed, Paul refers to Timothy as “my true son in the faith”. This indicates the closeness of their relationship, and the deep trust and affection they had for each other.

In his greeting, Paul asks God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord to bless Timothy. He asks for three gifts for him from God: grace, mercy and peace. In his letters to the churches, Paul often asks the Lord to bless them with grace and peace; here, as well as in his second letter to Timothy, he adds mercy.

Grace is a word used frequently, nearly 100 times, in Paul’s letters. It refers to the blessings God grants to those whom he loves. No one deserves God’s blessing, so grace is a free gift of blessing from God to his people, for instance, the grace to overcome temptations and the grace to remain steadfast on the road that leads to the eternal kingdom.

Mercy, like grace, is a gift from God that has nothing to do with what a person deserves. Truth be told, since God’s children so often ignore God’s grace and choose to do what we want, instead of what we know God wants, it might be said that we deserve God’s wrath, not his mercy. It is a freely given blessing of forgiveness, which is grounded in the kind and gentle love of a Father whose attitude is one of forbearance and patience with his wayward offspring.

The third favor that Paul asks from God for Timothy is the gift of peace. Paul does not ask God to remove the problems that trouble Timothy in fulfilling his own mission, but to grant him peace of mind and heart, so that the difficulties he encounters will not upset his confidence in the Lord.

To further bolster Timothy’s confidence, Paul speaks of his own mission, which he could not accomplish without God’s help. He thanks the Lord for the support he has received, and expresses gratitude because Christ Jesus considered him trustworthy in appointing him to his ministry, in spite of his history as a blasphemer, a violent man, and a persecutor of the early Church he was show mercy, because God recognized that he had acted in ignorance and unbelief. Instead, God’s grace was poured out upon him in abundance, together with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

+++ +++ +++ +++

In today’s Gospel reading (Luke 6:39-42), Jesus teaches his disciples that they should not follow the teaching of the Pharisees, using humorous hyperbole. “Hypocrite! How can you see the splinter of wood in your neighbor’s eye, but don’t notice the wooden beam in your own eye?” [The word hypocrite is a Greek word that means an actor. It refers to stage actors, but also to people who pretend to be different from – better than – they truly are. Jesus concludes: “Remove the wooden beam from your own eye; then you will see clearly enough to remove a splinter from someone else’s eye.”

The moral of the story: Keep in mind that it is hypocritical for me to correct someone else’s error if I pay no attention to my own. It might well be that the other person’s fault is insignificant compared to mine.

+++    +++    +++    +++  

IN MEMORIAM -- September 11, 2001

Grant peace, O Lord, to all who wait for you. Listen to the prayers of your people, and guide us in the way of justice.

Lord, you guide all creation with fatherly care. As you have given your people one common origin, bring us together peacefully into one family, and keep us united in love for all of our brothers and sisters.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

No comments: