Homily by Fr. Paul Plante
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 30, 2007
Scriptural Reference: 1 Timothy 6:11-16
It won’t be the first time and most likely not the last time that I focus on one of the many lists of virtues or sins in the writings of St. Paul. They occur quite frequently and they always give me food for thought – important themes to make an examination of conscience, to look closely at my life as a Christian in the light of the qualities or virtues that St. Paul puts together as one of many ways to make sure we are on the right track and going in the right direction. As Paul writes to his disciple Timothy he says “pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness”, six very thought provoking words. The two words in the middle are foundational. They could include all the others. Faith and love. But we know full well that as human beings, in terms especially of our daily behavior, we need something more specific.
And so faith and love are sandwiched by virtues that free us to make sure our faith and love show in our ordinary, everyday behavior.
On one side, righteousness and devotion. On the other side of faith and love – patience and gentleness. Let me explain.
Righteousness – the word righteous sometimes has a negative connotation, that of putting oneself above others and judging that everybody else is not as good. But it should be linked to adhering to the truth, embracing justice, believing in basic principles, not being a moral chameleon, having different values and behaviors depending what company we find ourselves, or showing one face in public and being quite the opposite in private. True righteousness puts us on solid ground, even when there seems to be sand traps or mudslides in the world around us.
Devotion - to be devoted to a cause means that we put all our energy into it, that we are not just faking it but that our heart is in it. We are devout here at the Eucharist for example when our mind and heart are focused on God, open to the scriptures, caring towards all. Do we only go through the motions? And I ask myself the question as well. Is our heart in what we are doing? Devotion is so important.
And now to the other slice holding the sandwich together, patience and gentleness. Patience – it makes most of us cringe. If you are always patient, you may be ready to be called a saint, or simply unaware of what is going on in and around you. The rest of us know that patience is a daily battle. It is linked to love of course, the higher level of love that allows us to love even those we tend not to like – or at least not to like what they say and do. It is linked to letting go of the control we want to have over others, to give control back to God where it belongs to begin with. It is linked to focusing on correcting our own faults instead of others. At times it is wholesome to smile rather than frown!
And it brings us to the last but not least quality, gentleness. If you know a truly gentle person, you know how powerful gentleness is. Seems like a contradiction doesn’t it? Gentleness is strong, powerful. Don’t forget that our Christian virtues are counter cultural. Learn from the gentle. Be gentle. The results will surprise you.