Friday, September 11, 2015

A wish for Timothy

To we begin reading the first Letter to Timothy, and it would be easy for us to skip past the greeting as we do in most letters. In this case we would miss a great deal. St. Paul wishes three things for Timothy, and these three things are at the center of our faith:

Χάρις (charis- grace) St. Paul takes a rather ordinary Greek word used in greeting, and transforms it. One could, and in many ways, St. Augustine did, spent his whole life delving into the depths of this single word. At it's core it is nothing less than God dwelling in each believer. The word appears about 150 times in the New Testament.

Έλεος (eleos- mercy) The word can also be translated compassion. It comes from a word referring to being poured out. Each time we begin mass at the end of the Penitential Rite we sing Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison, Kyrie Eleison. Even when mass is in Latin this remains in Greek. We tend to think of the word as referring to forgiveness, but that is really a secondary meaning. It's primary meaning is compassionate love. The forgiveness flows from the love. The compassionate love of God that is captured in this single word is difficult to translate into any other language.

The final thing that St. Paul wishes for Timothy is

Ειρήνη (eirene- peace) It is the state of being that results from the first two, the grace and mercy of God. The word comes from the verb to unite/join. It denotes oneness, wholeness, stillness. It is the Greek counterpart to the Hebrew Shalom.

As Chrsitians we should strive to live each day in this state of being. St. Paul reminds us that the only way to acheive this state is through the first two gifts of God, grace and compassionate loving mercy.

Today is Friday, a penitential day in our calendar, and the grace and mercy of God is always available to us in the sacraments, and today perhaps in the Sacrament of Penance.