Note: This video was recorded in the final week of May, before our nation was aware of the terrible atrocity of the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis, and before the mass protests that have sought to raise awareness of the hatred and brutality directed towards our brothers and sisters of color through systemic and individual racism. As a result, this reflection builds on the experiences of the pandemic we continue to experience, but does not highlight the important moral call which the peaceful protests have been raising to honor black and brown bodies and lives. It is my hope that the message of my reflection on the Scriptures, focusing on persistence in the cause of doing the work to which our faith calls – the work of care and justice – resonates with the protesters’ call for justice for Mr. Floyd and all those who have been stripped of their dignity, and even their lives, by the sin of racism. Similarly, the call for ‘self-control’ spoken of in the first reading is an invitation for us to consider the ways in which systemic structures have been damaged by those who have not heeded Paul’s sound ministerial advice to practice the self-control which should be pre-eminent among leaders in our churches and in civil society. Since Paul felt it appropriate to direct this advice to Timothy as an approach for Timothy’s own leadership of a local church, we should interpret that call in its proper context – as directed primarily at those with authority over others.
Saturday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time | June 6, 2020
Persistence in proclaiming the word – the core – the kerygma – of the Gospel message is a theme that is discussed and then demonstrated in today’s readings.
In the first reading, the author – possibly St. Paul or a disciple of his – is reminding Timothy to be persistent.
And what is Persistence? It is a capacity of mental and spiritual health in the face of difficult circumstances, fatigue or frustration. Clearly, a need for all of us, especially during these days!
It’s often learned through spiritual and mental discipline and recognizes setbacks and challenges and difficulties, but sees past them and embraces a vision of something better, even when it isn’t apparent how it will happen.
But persistence is also more than simply wishing for that better outcome; it is continuing to strive for it.
Persistence is related to self-control or being ‘self-possessed’ as the first reading says. The author seeks to remind Timothy that things aren’t always going to be easy when you are being faithful to the Gospel message. But don’t lose control or lose your persistence in faith!
Self-control is something we can easily forget when we aren’t attentive to strengthening our persistence – which is why one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is fortitude or strengthening for our faith!
Notice that persistence in speaking the truth of the Gospel isn’t something that is to be used to try to take down the false teachers that Paul speaks about. Its not about a mission to “fix others” or to even argue or be contentious. Rather, Paul says to Timothy, “Do your work; evangelize, do your ministry, your service.”
Be aware of the false teachers, even beware of them, but don’t get caught up with their negativity. Be persistent in your faith and in your ministry.
What an important message for us during this exceedingly difficult time of pandemic we are all in! We are invited to not only watch after ourselves and our health by taking precautions, but to take on ways of behaving that can help others – to be of service to them even in small ways, to help ourselves and everyone else. In these days, when many people are very stressed, angry, perhaps even lashing out, St. Paul’s reminder is important. Beware of that; be persistent in the good you can do, even if it is only a little.
That’s what persistence in our faith, which calls on us to be caretakers and servants for one another, invites us to during these times.
How have you helped nourish your persistence in faith these weeks? What have you done in service to others? Even if you haven’t yet, God’s timing is perfect and it isn’t too late to start! What is the Holy Spirit giving you the fortitude and persistence to see through this week?
The Gospel reminds us that we can be like the widow who throws in her whole lot – persistently hoping in the promises of God. Jesus honors her persistence even as he questions the religious elites who have their priorities mixed up. The scribes he speaks of “devour the houses” of people like that widow, Jesus says, and he condemns them for that. He invites us: be like the widow who persists in her faith, even when it seems like people and things outside of your control are devouring your life.
Because Jesus knows that God sees the persistence of faith and the good you do, and that, in the eyes of God, no good action is lost. Rather it is transformed into grace – which transforms us and heals our world.
God give you peace!
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As Director of Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), I have the opportunity to record video reflections on the readings of the Scriptures proclaimed at daily Mass. I do so as part of larger group of colleagues at the Conference, along with lay and ordained leaders from around the country. I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the readings for the life of faith today and to share them here, along with the written text of the reflections. To view these video reflections for past and upcoming celebrations of the Eucharist, visit the USCCB website.