Wednesday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
(II Timothy 1:1-3.6-12; Mark 12:18-27)
The American people have had a split mind on Lyndon B. Johnson, their thirty-sixth president. Some have praised him for his concern for the poor. Others have judged him as an obsessive and coercive politician. One edifying assessment came from Joseph Califano, a former Secretary of Heath, Education, and Welfare. Before holding that position, Califano had served President Johnson as a domestic policy aide. He wrote that Johnson invited him to his Texas ranch to get acquainted. As they were touring the property, they saw a poor man waking on the side of the road. Johnson told Califano, “See that man over there. The difference between him and us is only this much.” Johnson was holding up his hand with the thumb and index finger only a fraction of an inch apart. Johnson’s words and gesture echo what Paul writes in today’s first reading.
Paul is writing his disciple Timothy to give instructions on pastoral ministry. First, however, he insists that Timothy realize the source of his call. He says that Timothy was chosen not for any merit or by any birthright. He might have never known the salvation of Christ. But God called him gratuitously “according to his own design.” Timothy needs to thank him for this gift which ultimately means eternal life. Furthermore, like Paul he should make every effort to serve the Lord.
We do well also to recognize the wonder of being saved by Christ. We do not really miss out on much fun. Rather we know the peace of divine love. Of course, we want to serve him in return. We would not possess divine love if we did not share it with others. Reading Paul’s advice in this letter we learn some of the basics of service. Our preparation is filled out by attentiveness to Church leaders today.