Wednesday of week 32 of Ordinary Time – First Reading


Commentary on Titus 3:1-7
Our third and last reading from the Letter to Titus consists of some general instruction for church members. The living of a full Christian life touches not only on our direct relations with God but also permeates even the smallest actions of our day and the role we play in the everyday world. It is not right for us to make a division between what is ‘religious’ and what is ‘secular’ in our lives. Christianity, as a vision of life, touches everything. We live, as Teilhard de Chardin put it, in a milieu divin: everything around us is touched by God.So the Letter today urges the Christian community to obey government officials and representatives. As “citizens of heaven” some of the early Christians had problems about this and it seems to be reflected in the scene where Jesus is asked whether it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not. The answer is ‘Yes’ to both: give to God what belongs to God and to Caesar what belongs to Caesar (the ruling authorities). Although believers are indeed “citizens of heaven” (Phil 3:20), they should also submit themselves to the moral and legitimate demands of an earthly government and co-operate actively in promoting the well-being of the community.
Of course, everything belongs to God and that is the bottom line. But we also love and serve God when we work with conscientious people in promoting the overall wellbeing of the community (including the responsible paying of taxes). In fact, we have a Christian duty to do so. For Christians to abdicate their responsibilities to the wider community and lock themselves into an isolated ghetto would not be consistent with the love we are asked to have for all.
At the same time, we need to adopt what Cardinal Jaime Sin of Manila once described as “critical cooperation” with any government or its officials. All forms of injustice and corrupt use of power must be resisted and denounced. Obedience here would be tantamount to cooperation. As they say, for evil to prevail all that is needed is that good people remain silent.
Some of the other pieces of advice are fairly general:
– to be ready to do good at every opportunity
– not to go around saying slanderous things (even if true) about other people or picking quarrels with them but on the contrary to practise courtesy and politeness not just to people we know and like but “to all kinds of people”. This is “Love your neighbour” being carried out in practice and the advice is as relevant as it ever was. Sometimes we are not very different from non-Christians in this area.
The Christians are reminded that there was a time, before they became Christian, when their own behaviour left much to be desired, when they shared many of the vices of their fellow-Cretans: ignorance, disobedience, slaves to all kinds of passions and luxuries. At that time, they still lived in an atmosphere of wickedness and hostility, full of hate for others and quite obnoxious themselves.
Perhaps we could look into our own lives and see if any of these things are in ourselves:
– Ignorance of the content and meaning of our Christian faith. How many Christians, especially Catholics, have very little familiarity with the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments? How many could, if asked by a non-Christian, give a coherent and persuasive account of what Christianity really is?
– Disobedience, in the sense of lacking in real respect for authority, both in civil and church society. Obedience does not mean subservience; it means working together with civil and religious leaders for the wellbeing of all. And, as we mentioned, that working together may mean at times challenging and calling in question – but not copping out.
– Passions and luxuries: we live today in a very materialist, consumerist and hedonistic society. It has become a kind of fashion to live in this way. But, as we see again and again, pleasure is not a real source of happiness, often quite the contrary. As Christians we need to be able to show a viable alternative where happiness is to be found in other ways of living.
– Hating and hateful: a lot of people’s lives are consumed by hatred, resentment, anger and even violence towards others. Such people are not attractive and can only really find company in others equally full of hate and rancour. At the bottom of such feelings there is fear. In the New Testament, the opposite of love is not hatred, but fear. And true love casts out fear; they are incompatible.
Let us then try to be more loving people, let God’s love work in us and through us and let the deepdown fear gradually seep away.
In the second half of the reading, we are reminded that all that God has done for us in Jesus Christ, was in no way a kind of reward for our faithfulness to him. We have been saved and liberated for no other reason than the deep compassion that God had for us when still immersed in our sin. It came from the “kindness and love of God our saviour” for people everywhere. The word “love” here translates the Greek philanthropia (), that is, love for all mankind.
We were washed clean by the waters of baptism and made a new person in the power of God’s Spirit working in and through us, “the Holy Spirit which he so generously poured over us through Jesus Christ our Saviour”. We have been made right with God by a purely gratuitous display of his love; we have now become the Father’s heirs, sharing with Jesus our Brother and Lord life without end.
To remain in that state it is up to us to remain totally open to God’s love and allow him to transform us and become daily more like him in all our words, actions and relationships.

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