Sunday of The Publican and Pharisee Homily

Paul’s second letter to Timothy is in line with his first, in that he is affirming Timothy in his faith, and reassuring him of what is necessary to be a true Shepherd of Christ’s flock. Paul is writing from his imprisonment by the Romans, and exhorts Timothy to hold to the true doctrines that Paul has taught him. Paul assures Timothy, and assures us, that when we hold to these true doctrines of Christ, and to the true doctrines of the Church that have been inspired by the Holy Spirit, then we will experience a variety of effects: we will teach others these truths, we will live well according to God’s commands, we will have faith, patience, love, & steadfastness, and we will endure persecutions and suffering. Paul says, “indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
But who wants to endure suffering? Who wants to offer their lives to God as a sacrifice? Who wants to give up the comfort of simple faith, the comfort and social stability of acquiescing to the notion that our faith can be only a private matter? Who wants to put targets on themselves, by saying that they believe in One God, Father Almighty, and in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church and all that it teaches? Who wants to do this, especially when the prevailing voices of our society are vehemently against these beliefs? In the next paragraph Paul says, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and will wander into myths” (2Tim 4:3-4). Who wants to listen to the truth, when they could more easily be affirmed and encouraged to sin? Who wants to listen to the truth, when the truth will bring persecutions and earthly suffering? Those, who desire with all their heart, “to live a godly life in Christ Jesus,” will have no doubts about their belief in the absolute Truth of God, and will willingly suffer persecution in order to receive a crown of righteousness in heaven.
But to live a godly life, we must continue what we have learned, and not push it aside because of fleeting emotions, or worse, disordered passions. We are called to adhere to each commandment of Christ: to love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our strength, and all our mind, and our neighbor as ourself (Lk 10:27). We are called to boldly preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins, and everything that we have learned from Sacred Scripture that directs us to salvation. We must adhere to all of this, but if we are unsure about exactly what God wants of us, if we are unsure about God’s plan for our lives, if we are unsure about this One truth that leads to salvation, then we must embark on this journey ourselves, we must read the words of Christ for ourselves, and allow God to transform us and to give us courage through Him.
When we read the Word of God with faith for ourselves, then we can easily see how the humble repentance of the Tax Collector is more acceptable to God than the boastfulness of the self-righteous Pharisee. When we humble ourselves, and sacrifice our time and our pride, to personally read these words of salvation, then we will be exalted by God and fully equipped for the task ahead of us, and will not be afraid of the persecution that will come our way. For Paul says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2Tim. 3:16-17).

32nd Sunday After Pentecost Homily

Saint Paul’s letter to Timothy is known as a pastoral letter, a letter meant to instruct Timothy in his duties of being a Disciple, and a shepherd of souls. Timothy was an ordained bishop and was eventually martyred while being bishop of Ephesus. But today’s passage stops just short of this helpful sentence; “Take heed to yourself and to your teaching; hold to that, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim 4:16).
Pastors and shepherds have a perilous task ahead of them. They are not only responsible for their own actions and for retaining their own salvation through keeping their baptismal garment as pure as possible, but they are responsible for retaining the salvation of all those who are under their care. And as St. Paul indicates, these two are inseparably linked. The pastor must heed his teaching, making sure that it is the teaching set down by Christ, by the Apostles, and by the infallible doctrine of the Church, which has been given full authority on earth by Christ. The pastor must preach Sacred Scripture, the pastor must teach what that Scripture means and how it can be applied to the lives of the faithful—it is his obligation and his sacred duty to ensure that his flock is aware of the law of God, so that they can avoid the pain of hell, and the eternal death.
But this preaching, and this teaching leads to action, it leads to living a Godly life, it leads to a lived example of good speech and conduct, to love, to have immense faith, and to a life of purity. For this end, pastors, preachers, teachers, fathers, mothers, and all who are responsible for the welfare of others, for this end is what the practice of virtue is to be toiled and strived for. But this painful and sweaty effort, is not for personal pride, it is not for personal achievement, but it is for the eternal salvation of those who have been entrusted to our care.
This Epistle was written for a new pastor, a new bishop, but it is here now for all of us as well. We are all, at one point of our lives or another, responsible for others. And that responsibility requires love, and sometimes harsh action. Christ, Himself, showed examples of love and forgiveness, and He also turned over the tables of the money changers. He healed the sick, cast out demons, obeyed His Mother, and came to cast fire upon the earth and division, all while exalting those with child-like faith. Christ is all these things; chastising, and healing, but all of His actions lead the other towards salvation, each one according to their needs. Christ knocked Saint Paul off of his horse and blinded him for three days, and Paul became one of the most zealous Apostles.
But as Paul writes to Timothy, he instructs him to correct those who are teaching different doctrines. He says, “By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith,” (1 Tim. 1:19) and he continues, “in later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, through the pretensions of liars whose consciences are seared” (1 Tim. 4:1-2). We expect the world to have a conscience seared by the devil, we expect the secular world to lack understanding of eternal salvation given from God, but we do not expect those who have been given the gift of faith to reject the doctrines handed down from Christ Himself. No, as preachers and teachers, fathers and mothers, and all who have interaction with anyone, we are the ones expected to retain these sound doctrines “in accordance with the glorious gospel of the blessed God with which we have been entrusted” (1 Tim 1:11).
What are some of these beliefs? That a Sacramental Marriage is the only place for the conjugal act, that all human life is sacred from natural conception to natural death, that biological gender is given by God and cannot be altered, that we will all be judged after our death and how we lived our lives will dictate whether we go to a state of purgation, or to heaven or hell for eternity, that the only way to achieve this salvation is through belief in Jesus Christ, and that the Eucharist is indeed His actual Body and His actual Blood, and that by partaking of it, we are cleansed of sin.
These are the sound doctrines confirmed by the Holy Spirit, and these are what we are obliged to teach. But if, however, we find ourselves or others in a state of sin, then we also teach repentance. We also teach that we can humble ourselves like Zachaeus did, we can shed lives of sin, and climb the tree to seek Christ in repentance, and when we do, He will come towards us, and offer us forgiveness and healing, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Lk. 19:10).