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2 posted on 06/05/2004 8:53:10 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: All

From: 2 Timothy 4:1-8


Dedication to Preaching



[1] I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to
judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:
[2] preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince,
rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. [3] 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 liking, [4] and will turn away from listening to the
truth and wander into myths. [5] As for you, always be steady,
endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.


The Crown of Righteousness


[6] For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my
departure has come. [7] I have fought the good fight, I have finished
the race, I have kept the faith. [8] Henceforth there is laid up for me
the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will
award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have
loved his appearing.




Commentary:


1. The last chapter of the letter, summing up its main themes, is in
fact St Paul's last will and testament and has the features of that
type of document: it begins in a formal manner (vv. 1-5), protests the
sincerity of his dedicated life (vv. 6-8) and concludes with some very
tender, personal messages (vv. 9-22).


The opening is couched in a solemn form (also found in 1 Tim 5:21)
similar to a Greco-Roman will, laying on the heirs an obligation to
carry out the testator's wishes: "I charge you"; a series of
imperatives follows. To underline the importance of what the testator
is requesting, God the Father and Jesus Christ are invoked as
witnesses, guarantors of the commitments which will devolve on the
heirs. By swearing this document the testator is performing an act of
the virtue of religion, because he is acknowledging God as Supreme
Judge, to whom we must render an account of our actions.


"Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead": a graphic,
catechetical expression (cf. Acts 10:42; 1 Pet 4:5), confessing belief
in the truth that all men without exception will undergo judgment by
Jesus Christ, from whose decision there is no appeal. This has become
part of the Creed; in a solemn profession of faith, the "Creed of the
People of God", Pope Paul VI elaborated on this article of faith as we
have seen in the commentary on 2 Thessalonians 1:5 above.


2. "Preach the word": that is, the message of the Gospel, which
includes all the truths to be believed, the commandments to be kept and
the sacraments and other supernatural resources to be availed of. In
the life of the Church the ministry of the word has special importance;
it is the channel God has established whereby man can partake of the
Gospel; priests have a special duty to preach the word: "The people of
God is formed into one in the first place by the Word of the living
God, which is quite rightly sought from the mouth of priests. For since
nobody can be saved who has not first believed, it is the first task of
priests as co-workers of the bishops to preach the Gospel of God to all
men. In this way they carry out the Lord's command, 'Go into all the
world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation' (Mk 16:15) and thus
set up and increase the people of God" (Vatican II, "Presbyterorum
Ordinis", 4).


"In season and out of season", that is, even in adverse circumstances
(cf. v. 3), or when hearers are disinclined to accept the Christian
message. Timothy and, like him, all other sacred ministers, ought to
behave towards the faithful in accordance with the demands of Christian
life and doctrine. "What do men want, what do they expect of the
priest, the minister of Christ, the living sign of the presence of the
Good Shepherd? We would venture to say that, although they may not
explicitly say so, they need, want and hope for a priest-priest, a
priest through and through, a man who gives his life for them, by
opening to them the horizons of the soul; a man who unceasingly
exercises his ministry whose heart is capable of understanding, and a
man who gives simply and joyfully, in season and even out of season,
what he alone can give--the richness of grace, of divine intimacy
which, through him, God wishes to distribute among men" (A. del
Portillo, "On Priesthood", p. 66).


3-5. With sadness in his heart and with no little irony St Paul unmasks
those who prefer smooth talk to the truth. Earlier Cicero criticized
certain Greeks who by skillful use of words managed to delude their
listeners even though they had really nothing to say or were misleading
them. However where Christian doctrine is at stake, the danger that can
be done to soul is much more grave: "Do not be afraid, or surprised, to
see the resistance of some people's minds. There will always be stupid
people who deck out the armor of their ignorance with a display of
culture" ([St] J. Escriva, "Furrow", 934).


As an antidote to empty talk, the Apostle recommends solid teaching,
constancy in the face of difficulty, and commitment to the ministry.
St John Chrysostom called for fidelity to the Gospel in these words:
"What you should fear is not that people might malign you but that you
should be regarded as tainted with the same hypocrisy as your
detractors. For if that were the case you would become tasteless and
people would trample you underfoot. But if you offer the salt in all
sobriety and are criticized on that account, do not be dismayed; for
that is what salt is for--to irritate and disturb the corrupt. People
will continue to speak evil of you, but they will do you no harm;
they will only prove your reliability" ("Hom. on St Matthew", 15, 7).


6-8. Conscious of his closeness to death, St Paul writes in poetic
strain about his life in the service of the Gospel, about the meaning
of death and his hope of heaven. The imagery he uses shows how he
interprets his experience in the light of faith. "On the point of being
sacrificed": literally "poured out in sacrifice": death is an offering
to God, like the libations of oil poured on the altar of sacrifices.
Death is the beginning of a journey: "the point of my departure has
come", the anchor is being weighed, the sails unfurled.


The Christian life is like magnificent Games taking place in the
presence of God, who acts as the judge. In Greece the Games had close
connections with religious worship; St Paul presents the Christian life
as a type of spiritual sport: "races" indicates the continuous effort
to achieve perfection (cf. Phil 3:14); training for athletics indicates
the practice of self-denial (cf. 1 Cor 9:26-27); fighting stands for
the effort required to resist sin even if that means death, as can
happen in the event of persecution (cf. Heb 12:4). It is well
worthwhile taking part in this competition, because, as St John
Chrysostom points out, "the crown which it bestows never withers. It is
not made of laurel leaves, it is not a man who places it on our head,
it has not been won in the presence of a crowd made up of men, but in a
stadium full of angels. In earthly competitions a man fights and
strives for days and the only reward he receives is a crown which
withers in a matter of hours [...]. That does not happen here: the
crown he is given is a glory and honor whose brilliance lasts forever
("Hom. on 2 Tim, ad loc".).


All Christians who "have loved his appearing", that is, who stay true
to Christ, share St Paul's expectation of eternal life. "We who know
about the eternal joys of the heavenly fatherland should hasten to
reach it by the more direct route" (St Gregory the Great, "In Evangelia
Homiliae", 16).



Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text
taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries
made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of
Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock,
Co. Dublin, Ireland.


3 posted on 06/05/2004 8:57:12 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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