Today we celebrate the memorial of Saints Timothy and Titus, both converts to the faith as a result of the teaching and preaching of Saint Paul. Today’s Mass readings present two options: the first from the beginning of the second letter of Paul to Timothy, and the second from the beginning of Paul’s letter to Titus. In each, Paul addresses the man who walked the journey of faith with him – Timothy, who became bishop of Ephesus, and Titus, who became bishop of Crete.
In his letter to Timothy, Paul writes:
For this reason, I remind you to stir into flame
the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.
For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice
but rather of power and love and self-control.
So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord,
nor of me, a prisoner for his sake;
but bear your share of hardship for the Gospel
with the strength that comes from God. (2 Tim 1:6-8)
In his letter to Titus, Paul writes:
For this reason I left you in Crete
so that you might set right what remains to be done
and appoint presbyters in every town, as I directed you. (Ti 1:5)
Paul reminds Timothy and Titus to be faithful witnesses in their office as bishops, exhorting them to call on the Holy Spirit to powerfully witness to the love of God and to continue to work to build the Church. This is the call of the bishop – to build the Church and to preach and teach in the power of Holy Spirit, not with a spirit of fear, and never with shame of their testimony, but with the strength that comes from God.
I often wonder about the bishops. What is their day like? What are their struggles? What are their joys? Theirs, in many ways, is a hidden work, albeit at times a very public one. It strikes me, too, especially in this age, how lonely it could be, and often, how thankless. As Laity, we usually only see the bishop at Confirmation, so connecting on a personal level, like we might with our pastor or parish priests, is mostly unachievable.
A friend of mine chaperoned her high school to the March for Life this week. She told me that Cardinal O’Malley, Cardinal Archbishop of Boston, celebrated Mass every day with the Marchers. When I visited my daughter in Atlanta in September, I just happened to be there when the bishop was celebrating Mass with the students. In both cases, these shepherds reached out in a very simple, tangible way to build the Church, particularly with young people. I know that this will have a lasting effect on some of them.
So today, I exhort you to pray for the bishops of the Church, especially for the bishop of your local diocese, that the flame of the Holy Spirit be stirred in them and that they will bear their “share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God” as they sacrifice their lives for the building up of the Church.
Saints Timothy and Titus, pray for us! Anne