Biblical Meditation: On Testimony

Sunday October 2, four texts will be read.
First reading Book of the prophet Habacue (Ha 1, 2-3; 2, 2-4).
Psalm 94.
Second Reading Second letter from Paul to Timothy (2 Tim 1, 6-8, 13-14).
The Gospel according to Saint Luke (Lk 17, 5-10).

Second Letter of Saint Paul the Apostle to Timothy 2 Tim 1, 6-8, 13-14

I remind you, revive the free gift of God, this gift that has been in you since I laid hands on you.
For it is not a spirit of fear that God has given us, but a spirit of strength, love and balance.
Therefore be not ashamed to bear witness to our Lord, and be not ashamed of me, who am his prisoner; but, with the strength of God, take your share of the suffering linked to the proclamation of the Gospel.

Hold on to the model given by the solid words that you have heard me speak in faith and in the love that is in Christ Jesus.
Guard the deposit of faith in all its beauty, with the help of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.

Paul’s Spiritual Testament

The Second Letter to Timothy is part of the so-called pastoral letters because they are addressed to pastors. Leaving aside the debate among biblical scholars as to the authorship of this epistle – is it from St. Paul or from one of his disciples? –, it seems important to us to underline its aim. This text is received by the tradition of the Church as being the spiritual testament of Paul.

The first generation of Christ’s disciples begins to disappear and it becomes important to ensure the future of the Church by structuring it. Now, the Church is not primarily an institution; it is above all the living and dynamic body of Christ where each member has its raison d’être. Thus, in evoking the grace of the Holy Spirit which is given to us by baptism or by the laying on of hands to be at the service of the Church, Paul insists on two things.

The Church as the Body of Christ

The first consists in saying that our ecclesial communion, in other words our belonging to the body of Christ, cannot be imposed on us, cannot take place without our consent, since it is under the aegis of the Holy Spirit. It is a dialogue that asks that our whole life and everything that we are be included in it. The second implies that the Holy Spirit bestows particular gifts, that is to say charisms, “for common unity”which is realized, according to the Christian faith, in the Church, which is the body of Christ.

Thus, the hierarchical structure of the Church is built around these various gifts (or charisms) that the Spirit distributes to each person at baptism. This difference should not harm unity, nor unity to difference. It is rather an organic union whose members have only one head, which is Christ himself.

For it is Christ who gives himself to each “like the soul to the limbs of the body”, according to Saint Maximus the Confessor, and this always according to the capacities assigned to each one to receive it. Therefore, the difference between the gifts of the Holy Spirit is not ontological, but functional. In the Church as the Body of Christ, there is a whole spectrum of roles that are called to function properly because the members who constitute it are different.

Invigorating Communion

It is only from this experience of the Church as the body of Christ that the disciple will be able to give living and invigorating witness to what this communion is. He will be able to bear witness to the good news of the Gospel by knowing it from the inside. She will thus be devoid of fear and shame, but will be adorned with strength, love and level-headedness. For the true knowledge of the mystery of Christ and of life in Christ does not depend on the laws of the intellect, but emerges from the mystery itself.

Rereading the passage taken from the letter to Timothy, we find the words that Christ addressed to his disciples: “When you are brought before the people of the synagogues, the magistrates and the authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourself or what you will say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that hour what to say. » (Luke 12, 11-12).

Julija Vidovic is professor of bioethics and history of ecumenical councils at the Saint-Serge Orthodox Theological Institute; Lecturer at the Catholic Institute of Paris.

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Biblical Meditation: On Testimony

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