Saturday, January 28, 2012

Why We Remember our Patron Saint

St. Timothy's is named after a man who lived two millennia ago in a place very far from here. He never met us, nor have we met him. He did not speak English, and had no idea Oregon existed. What binds us together with him is a common faith and a common humanity. 

Timothy was a disciple of St. Paul and learned the Christian faith from him. As he matured in that faith, Timothy became more and more fully himself. His potential was unlocked; capabilities he had previous not known were revealed; limitations were overcome; he grew into what his mentor Paul called "the full stature of Christ." He was a person in the fullest sense of that word.

And this is, after all, one of the main reasons we commemorate the saints. Wrapped in the glory and joy of the nearer presence of God as they are, the saints do not benefit one jot by our songs of praise. Rather, they hold out for us tangible signs that the adventure of Christian discipleship is both exciting and possible. 

The saints also remind us that Christianity is not an institution or a system but a personal relationship: God the Holy Trinity (One Being in Three Persons) is relationship in God's own own Self. We, made in the Image of God, can only become fully alive when we are persons in the fullest sense--and that means communion with God, each other, and the Creation. It means freedom and fulfillment.

For too long, Christianity has been associated not with fullness of personhood, but a masking of the person with institutional, cultural, or ideological overlays. Rather than liberation, many see the Gospel as bringing enslavement. And given some of what has been done in the name of the Gospel throughout the ages, who is to blame them?

The recovery of Christian witness where this has happened can only begin when the members of the Church know and radiate this truth: "Through communion with God, I am fully alive, fully become myself." Only such people free to see and value the Other as holy and worth everything. 

We remember St. Timothy because for us he is deeply real, deeply and personally present as a witness to the work of God in human life, in our own lives here in 21st century Salem, Oregon. By recalling this one person, we are making clear the truth that all people have a validity and a potential that communion with God the Holy Trinity makes possible. It is to live and share that life for which we exist.

O Holy Timothy, pray for us!

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