Paul is both a good teacher here and a prophet. He is teaching us about our duties as followers of Christ, that we are to be persistent in passing on the Word of God through our lives.
ʺI charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus…proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching. For there will come a time when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths. But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; fulfill your ministry.ʺ 2 Timothy 4: 1-5
Paul is both a good teacher here and a prophet. He is teaching us about our duties as followers of Christ, that we are to be persistent in passing on the Word of God through our lives. In a world full of distraction and countless competing interests, persistence is a virtue. Sometimes we may feel like we are talking into the wind, that not a single soul is listening, but that is not to be our worry. We are like musical instruments in God’s hands. By ourselves we are nothing, but in his hands we can bring forth beautiful music. It is not our music, it is his and he can bring beautiful music out of the most humble and the most battered of instruments. All he wants is our persistent willingness to be used by him for the good of others. As Christians, we are called to be persistent in living the Christ life openly and joyfully. Sometimes this will be convenient, but most of the time it will be inconvenient, it will be difficult and we will be challenged and ridiculed, but we are to always, as Paul tells us, be patient. Patience, rooted in the love that is Christ Jesus, will enable us to endure gracefully, and to forgive generously. After all, in reality, those who ignore, or ridicule, or despise us for being joyful in Christ, are the very ones who need to see that joy, whether they know it or not.
Paul is a prophet as well. Indeed, one of the greatest. For he has described here, in these few words, the reality of our own times. We are living in a time when, even within the Church, there are those who will no longer ʺtolerate sound doctrine,ʺ when most ʺfollow their own desires and insatiable curiosities.ʺ In this relativistic, ego-centered world, there are more gods than the pagans ever imagined. The individual and his or her desires create gods out of anything, from simple sensual passions to cleverly conceived ideologies of every imaginable kind. If you want to know what a person’s gods are, watch what they spend the majority of their time, treasure and talent on. The sad reality is that the multitude of gods that so many people follow today are, like those of the pagan past, mere phantom projections of their own egos. They make gods in their own image. And their desires are insatiable. If one god no longer meets their needs for immediate gratification, they simply move on to another. But these gods never satisfy them for long, for they are mere phantoms. The fact is that no human being, atheist or not, is without religion. Whatever an individual’s all-consuming passion is, that is their religion. They give it all of their strength, all of their heart, all of their conscious attention, and all their wealth.
As Christians, we know that there is but One God who can meet and satisfy our deepest needs. We follow a God who does not demand of us anything that he would not do for us. He commands us to love one another as he loved us. We know how he loves us, because he showed it to us in human flesh. He served us with all of his being. He suffered and died for us on the cross to show us how much he loves us. Even though we had been rebellious, he could not deny his love for us. His love was manifested in the flesh and in the actions of compassion, healing, teaching, serving and most of all, in forgiving. That is all that he asks of us, to do as he did. He taught us what patience looks like. He taught us what love does, unconditionally. And, yes, he taught us the real costs as well. But his promise is true. His help is real and present, and never fails. While others follow every new myth that comes along, we follow the One who is all Truth, all Goodness, and all Beauty, who does not disappoint, who never turns away from us, who fills us up out of his infinite love. Our God is neither a distant tyrant, nor some ephemeral, unsatisfying passion. Our God is the very source of reality, the very Ground of Being. All goodness, truth and beauty finds its source and its being in Him.
Though many will recoil from the truth, precisely because the truth sheds clear light on their empty gods, and many will bend like reeds in the wind, following the latest passions, we are called to be, ʺself-possessed in all circumstances; [to] put up with hardships; [in order to] fulfill our ministry,ʺ which is to proclaim the Word of Love in this needy world.
We pray, then, that we might turn our gaze always on the One God who can satisfy our deepest needs. And we pray: Lord, let Thy will be done, in and through us in our lives here on earth, as it is done joyfully in heaven by your angels and saints. Amen.