The path to righteousness

Paul's unwavering faith inspires us, the psalmist's continual praise fills us with hope, and Jesus's balance of divine purpose and earthly obedience shows us the way to balance our earthly existence with God’s plan for each of us.

Image by Robert Cheaib

The path to righteousness

By Ron Bruni
2 Timothy 4:1-8
Luke 2:41-51

2 Timothy is one of the three pastoral epistles in the New Testament, traditionally attributed to the apostle Paul. It is considered Paul's last epistle, written shortly before his martyrdom in Rome around A.D. 67. The letter is addressed to Timothy, Paul's close companion and coworker, serving as a pastor in Ephesus. 

Paul wrote this letter to encourage and instruct Timothy in his ministry, likely sensing his impending death. He encourages Timothy to remain steadfast despite persecution, false teachings, and difficulties. He urges Timothy not to be ashamed of the gospel or of Paul's imprisonment but to endure suffering for Christ. He reminds Timothy to guard the gospel teachings he has received and pass them on to faithful men who can teach others. He expresses confidence in God's ability to guard what has been entrusted to him until the final day. The letter contains one of Paul's Christological hymns about dying and reigning with Christ.

” . . .if we had died with him we shall also live with him;
if we persevere we shall also reign with him;
but if we deny him he will deny us.
If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful,
 for he cannot deny Himself”

(2 Timothy 2:11 – 13) 

Near the end, Paul anticipates his imminent death and looks forward to receiving the "crown of righteousness" from the Lord. While most scholars argue that Timothy was likely written by a later follower of Paul rather than the apostle himself, the letter provides valuable insights into Paul's final days in his pastoral concerns for the young church.

Paul's words remind us of the importance of steadfastness in our Christian mission. We are called to proclaim the gospel, not just when it is convenient but especially when it is challenging. The perseverance and faith are a testament to our commitment to Christ. We see a life of purpose and dedication as we reflect on Paul's journey. He describes his life as "poured out as a libation," a vivid image of complete self-giving. We are invited to examine our own lives: are we pouring ourselves out for the mission God has given us? Are we keeping the faith through the trials and tribulations we face?

Our Psalm today beautifully expresses a life dedicated to praising God. "My mouth is filled with your praise and glory all day long," he declares. Even in old age, the psalmist trusts God's steadfast presence and power. Therefore, this Psalm is a powerful reminder that our relationship with God is a lifelong journey. From our youth to our elder years, we are called to continually trust him and praise his works. The psalmist's unwavering faith and continual praise offer us a model of how to live out our days with hope and joy, regardless of our circumstances.

In our gospel, we encounter the boy Jesus in the temple, engaging with the teachers and astonishing them with his understanding. When Mary and Joseph find him, Jesus responds, "Did you not know that I must be in my father's house?" Yet, he returns with them to Nazareth and is obedient to them. This passage reveals Jesus' deep awareness of his divine mission even at a young age and highlights his obedience to his earthly parents. 

Balancing our divine calling with our earthly responsibilities is a profound lesson. Jesus models how to live in obedience and humility, even when we know a higher calling. For parents, this passage also offers a moment for them to reflect on their role in nurturing the faith and growth of their children. Mary and Joseph experienced the anxiety of losing Jesus, but they also respected his unique relationship with God. They teach us to trust God's plans for our children and guide them with love and faith.

Therefore, as we reflect on these three readings, let Paul's unwavering faith inspire us, the psalmist's continual praise fill us with hope, and Jesus's balance of divine purpose and earthly obedience show us the way to balance our earthly existence with God’s plan for each of us. May we strive to keep the faith, live lives of praise and trust, and understand and fulfill our sacred mission while obeying God's will. 

Let us pray for the grace to live out these virtues in our own lives. May we, like Paul, be able to say at the end of our journey, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."

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