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Sts. Timothy and Titus

by Fr. Brendan Hankins, O.Praem.


In Edith Hamilton’s classic compilation of Greek and Roman mythology, she says this about Dionysus, the God of Wine: “The God of Wine could be kind and beneficent. He could also be cruel and drive men on to frightful deeds. Often he made them mad. … The worship of Dionysus was centered in these two terrible ideas so far apart—of freedom and ecstatic joy and of savage brutality. He was man’s benefactor and he was man’s destroyer.”

In his first letter to St. Timothy, St. Paul tells his young protégé, “I repeat the request I made of you when I was on my way to Macedonia, that you stay in Ephesus to instruct certain people not to teach false doctrines or to concern themselves with certain myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculation rather than the plan of God that is to be received by faith.” Once again St. Paul warns St. Timothy in his second letter, “For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths.” St. Paul’s instruction and warnings would come to fruition many years after his letters were received by the then young St. Timothy.

In the year 97, the now 80-year-old bishop of Ephesus St. Timothy tried to halt a procession in honor of the god Dionysus by preaching the gospel. The angry pagans beat him, dragged him through the streets, and stoned him to death.

How did St. Timothy persevere in his faith and fervor for so many years in order to finally receive his martyr’s crown in his old age? One can only assume that it was by his fidelity to the instruction he received from his spiritual father, St. Paul. St. Thomas, commenting on the epistles to Timothy and Titus, states, “In earlier epistles St. Paul instructed the Church about those things which pertain to its unity, but in the three letters to Timothy and Titus he treats of the rulers of the Church themselves, who are its principle members.” St. Timothy was the first ruler or bishop of the Church in Ephesus, and St. Titus was the first bishop of Crete. St. Thomas continues saying that there are three things that are fitting for a prelate or bishop: “First, to rule the people; second, to suffer for the people; and finally, to check or rebuke evil men.” Instruction in each of these areas is laid out by St. Paul in his three pastoral epistles.

In order to guide his flock, St. Paul counsels Timothy:

If you will give these instructions to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound teaching you have followed. Avoid profane and silly myths. Train yourself for devotion, for while physical training is of limited value, devotion is valuable in every respect, since it holds a promise of life both for the present and for the future.

In order to suffer for his people St. Paul encourages Timothy:

So you, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Bear your share of hardship along with me like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. … In fact, all who want to live religiously in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. … Be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; fulfill the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry.

Finally, St. Paul gives Titus guidance in order to check or rebuke evil men:

For there are also many rebels, idle talkers, and deceivers. … It is imperative to silence them for they are upsetting whole families by teaching for sordid gain what they should not. Therefore, admonish them sharply, so that they may be sound in the faith.

And so St. Timothy, at the age of 80, stepped in front of the pagan procession to check evil men and preach the gospel. Let us follow the example and instruction of our spiritual fathers, remaining faithful to what we have learned and believed in the sacred scriptures, which are capable of giving us wisdom that is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction and for training in righteousness, preparing us for every good work.

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