Today we celebrate the feast of a young bishop who feared only God. St. Timothy’s name in Greek means “God Fearing,” and this first bishop of Ephesus had to stand up to the might of the Roman Empire to do his job. St. Paul, his mentor, “encourages” him (that is, he gives him courage) in the first reading of today’s Mass, from his second epistle to Timothy:
"I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For 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, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake; but bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God."
Luminous words indeed. Paul writes to his young friend from prison, knowing that he will eventually be executed by the Roman government. He is not afraid, nor “discouraged” (that is, lacking courage), and he imparts that energy to Timothy.
Sorry to have to point this out, but we have become fearful, lazy, and discouraged, as the pandemic has embarrassingly revealed. The virus clearly came out of lab run by the Chinese Community Party, and no one has the guts to say it out loud: not the big tech companies that collaborate with China in controlling global information, not the sports stars and celebrities that grovel before the Chinese Communist Party, not our own government that fears what China might do to us, and not even the Vatican, which refuses to condemn the Chinese government’s suppression of its own people, its persecution of church communities, and its concentration camps for ethnic minorities.
We have all become lazy and cowardly men and women, fearful that our luxuries will be taken away from us if we raise a voice against the manifest injustices of totalitarian regimes. Let’s do our best to regain our courage; let us relearn our nobility as civilized people. You could watch the Wizard of Oz again, but even better, you could read today’s epistle to Timothy closely and prayerfully. God has given each of us a spirit of power and love and self-control, so stir it into flame!