The second reading on Sunday, the 24th of Ordinary Time, came from the first of St Paul’s letters to Timothy.
The passage we heard contains intensely personal words. Paul reflects on his active role in opposing the teaching of the early Church – present and assisting at the brutal killing of St Stephen – and on the mercy of God who has now drawn him to the service of the Church and to the faith.
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, and who judged me faithful enough to call me into his service even though I used to be a blasphemer and did all I could to injure and discredit the faith.
Mercy, however, was shown me, because until I became a believer I had been acting in ignorance; and the grace of our Lord filled me with faith and with the love that is in Christ Jesus.
Here is a saying that you can rely on and nobody should doubt: that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
I myself am the greatest of them; and if mercy has been shown to me, it is because Jesus Christ meant to make me the greatest evidence of his inexhaustible patience for all the other people who would later have to trust in him to come to eternal life.
To the eternal King, the undying, invisible and only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Timothy 1:12-17
God is merciful, indeed. But so, of course, was the Church which received and subsequently comissioned, Paul, its former persecutor, to minister in its name.
The Church is constantly called to live to the truth of the present, rather than to dwell on past deeds. In and by the mercy of God, and with the cooperation of sinners, all things can be made new.
Salvation is God’s gift, and it is our duty and our privilege to bear witness to it, daily. The grace of God urges that we live what by his mercy we are, and not what we’ve been. We do not though forget our error or fault, but when remembered and related, it is less to our shame and far more to God’s glory in freeing us from sin.
- How do, how should, we respond to those who do violence? Or support it?
Stoning of St Stephen, with St Paul in attendance. Vatican Museum. (c) 2016, Allen Morris