Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God's will, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
I am grateful to God, whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did, when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.
For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.
Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace.
After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.
Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!' And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.'
Timothy's role in the Church sounds like a retired foreign missionary who later became guide or bishop to the local Christians in Ephesus. He had the honor of being a fellow worker with Paul, sharing in the privilege of both preaching the gospel and suffering for it. Titus, too, was a loyal fellow worker, who features both in the Pauline letters and in the Acts of the Apostles.
Timothy's father, whose name is not given, was a Greek and his mother was a Jewess named Eunice. As the son of a mixed marriage, he was considered Jewish, though he was not circumcised as a child, possibly because of objections from his father. It was his grandmother, Lois, who first became Christian. Timothy was baptised by Paul around the year 47 and later joined him in his apostolic travels, being with Paul at the founding of the Church in Corinth. During his years with Paul, he became one of his most trusted friends and was sent on difficult missions - often in the face of disturbance in local churches which Paul had founded. When Paul installed him as leader for the Church of Ephesus, Timothy was comparatively young for this work. "Let no one have contempt for your youth," Paul writes (1 Tim 4:12.) This seems to indicate that he was timid, and at one point he gets the advice to "Stop drinking only water, but have a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent illnesses" (1 Tim 5:23).
Titus has the distinction of being a close friend and disciple of Paul as well as a fellow missionary. He was Greek, possibly from Antioch, but even though Titus was a Gentile, Paul would not let him undergo forced circumcision at Jerusalem. Titus comes across in the New Testament as a peacemaker, and a great friend to Paul. The second letter to Corinth suggests the depth of his friendship with Titus, and their partnership in the work of preaching the gospel: "When I went to Troas…I had no relief in my spirit because I did not find my brother Titus. .. Even when we came into Macedonia we were afflicted in every way - external conflicts, internal fears. But God, who encourages the downcast, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus…" (2 Cor 2:12a, 13; 7:5-6). Later, when Paul was having a severe bout of trouble with the Corinthians, Titus was the bearer of a warning letter and was successful in smoothing things out. Paul writes he was comforted by the arrival of Titus but also "by the encouragement which he had in regard to you, as he told us of your yearning, your regret, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more…. And his heart goes out to you all the more, as he remembers the obedience of all of you.." (2 Cor 7:7, 15).
The Letter to Titus addresses him as the administrator of the Christian community on the island of Crete, charged with organizing it, correcting abuses and appointing presbyter-bishops. This man, Titus, offers us another glimpse of life in the early Church: a man of great zeal in the apostolate, of deep communion in Christ, and of a warm, personal friendship with St Paul and other fellow-workers in spreading the Gospel. At the end of his Letter to Titus, Paul asks his old friend, "hurry to me" just as soon as his duties in Crete will allow. And at the heart of that letter is a beautiful expression of the faith they shared: "When the kindness and generous love of God our Savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the holy Spirit, whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our saviour, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life" (Titus 3:4-8).
Just as Paul needed associates to work with him, Jesus too had needed associates to share in his work. That is why we find him in today's gospel appointing seventy-two and sending them out ahead of him; it wasn't enough just to appoint the twelve. Indeed, as he sends out this large group, he asks them to pray to the Lord of the harvest for even more workers for the Lord's harvest. Indeed, the Lord needs us all; we are all called to be his co-workers, proclaiming by our lives that, in the words of Jesus today, "the kingdom of God is very near to you." If the Lord needs us to share in his work, we, in turn, need each other's support if we are to respond to that call of the Lord.
In the first reading, Paul refers to the faith of Timothy's mother and grandmother. Without their faith, Timothy would not have been the man of faith he was. We can all point to parents, grandparents and various other companions on the pilgrimage of life, without whom we would not have come to faith in the Lord. As Paul needed Timothy and Titus, and Jesus needed many workers, we need each other's witness if the gift that God gave us in baptism is to be fanned into a living flame, in the words of the first reading. In this year of faith, we ask the Lord to increase our faith so that we can be a support to one another in the living out of our baptismal calling. [MH]