No matter where you log on to the World Wide Web, it is becoming more and more evident that we are living in a sound bite world, where every phrase uttered by the rich and the famous is repeated, picked apart and used as a weapon for or against many things.
Consider the Holy Father.
Whenever Pope Francis offers up his thoughts on a controversial subject – homosexuality, divorce, puppy dogs and souls – there is an army of fast-fingered soldiers ready to take his words and spin them in a direction that may be quite far from what the Pope intended.
When this happens, there is sure to follow questions about the unity of the Catholic Church. Are we in agreement on church teachings? Is the Pope indicating a future change in dogma whenever he chats with journalists on a plane? Can Holy Mother Church survive the “cracks” in our walls?
I thought about this while reflecting on the daily Mass readings for the Memorial of Saints Timothy and Titus, two men who evangelized for the faith under St. Paul. Both became bishops and both were recipients of letters from Paul that have survived the ages and continue to be read in churches across the globe.
I sometimes wonder if Timothy and Titus agreed with everything Paul had to say though. Did they agree with each other? Were there arguments and debates?
We may not know the answers to those questions, but given what we know about early Church history and the frailty of the human spirit, it’s probably a safe bet that Paul and Timothy and Titus did not always have 100 percent agreement on everything.
Just like today.
Our very large – global – Catholic Church does indeed have a great spirit of debate and discussion. Good-hearted pastors and theologians can, and often do, disagree on many things. Certain aspects of Church teachings and practices have been developed over time, particularly as we learn more about our history, our planet and our selves.
It is comforting to know that the major teachings of our faith – the Incarnation, the Trinity, the Eucharist – were settled long ago. I can handle a disagreement over whether or not my dog will be in heaven.
Despite our many current debates, today’s readings are a reminder that just as Paul constantly reached out to Timothy and Titus with letters of support, we need to show support to our pastors, our priests, deacons, sisters and especially our seminarians. They need encouragement.
It’s foolish to believe that because of their vocation they are instantly holy and without internal struggles about faith. On the contrary, it is because of their vocation that they are tested more than we. They fight bigger battles. They take up their arms daily on our behalf.
We should not be shy about sending words of encouragement. We should not be shy about praying for them and supporting them as much as we can.
As Paul wrote to Timothy:
“For this reason, I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have … 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 … but bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.”
As a faithful laity, we too must remember that this call to “bear our share of hardship” and keep our house from being divided is one that we must be ready to answer.
Daily Mass Readings: