The Pope: Timothy and Titus

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

After speaking at length of the great Apostle Paul, today we take into consideration two of his closest collaborators: Timothy and Titus. To them are addressed three letters traditionally attributed to Paul, of which two are destined to Timothy and one to Titus.

“Timothy” is a Greek name and means “who honors God.” While Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, mentions him six times, Paul names him on 17 occasions in his letters (moreover he appears once in the Letter to the Hebrews). We can deduce that from Paul he enjoyed great consideration, although Luke does not tell us all that he had to do with him. The Apostle, in fact, entrusted him with important missions and saw in him a sort of “alter ego,” as can be seen in his great praise of him in the Letter to the Philippians. “I have no one like him, who will be genuinely anxious for your welfare” (2:20).

Timothy was born in Lystra (some 200 kilometers northwest of Tarsus) of a Jewish mother and a pagan father (cf. Acts 16:1). The fact that his mother had contracted a mixed marriage and that she did not circumcise her son leads one to think that Timothy was brought up in a family that was not strictly observant, though it is said that he knew the Scriptures from his childhood (cf. 2 Timothy 3:15). His mother’s name has been transmitted to us, Eunice, and that of his grandmother, Lois (cf. 2 Timothy 1:5).

When Paul passed through Lystra at the start of his second missionary journey, he chose Timothy as his companion, as “he was well spoken by the brethren at Lystra and Iconium” (Acts 16:2), but he “circumcised him because of the Jews that were in those places ” (Acts 16:3). Together with Paul and Silas, Timothy went across Asia Minor to Troas, from where he went to Macedonia. We are told that in Philippi, where Paul and Silas were accused of disturbing the city and imprisoned for having been opposed to some unscrupulous individuals who were taking advantage of a slave girl who had a spirit of divination (cf. Acts 16:16-40), Timothy was released. When Paul then was obliged to travel to Athens, Timothy caught up with him in that city and from there was sent to the young Church of Thessalonica to confirm her in the faith (cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2). He then joined the Apostle in Corinth, giving him good news about the Thessalonians and collaborating with him in the evangelization of that city (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:19).

We again find Timothy in Ephesus, during Paul’s third missionary journey. From there, the Apostle wrote probably to Philemon and to the Philippians, and both letters were written with Timothy (cf. Philemon 1; Philippians 1:1). From Ephesus, Paul sent him to Macedonia with a certain Erastus (cf. Acts 19:22) and later to Corinth, with the task to take a letter, in which he recommended to the Corinthians that they give him a good reception (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:17; 16:10-11).

He appears again as co-writer of the Second Letter to the Corinthians, and when from Corinth Paul wrote the Letter to the Romans, he transmitted greetings to Timothy, as well as to others (cf. Romans 16:21). From Corinth, the disciple again traveled to Troas, on the Asian shore of the Aegean Sea, there to await the Apostle who was going to Jerusalem at the end of his third missionary journey (cf. Acts 20:4).

From that moment, we can say that the figure of Timothy stands out as that of a pastor of great importance. According to Eusebius’ subsequent “Ecclesiastical History,” Timothy was the first bishop of Ephesus (cf. 3:4). Some of his relics have been in Italy since 1239, in the Cathedral of Termoli, in Molise, having come from Constantinople.

As regards the figure of Titus, whose name is of Latin origin, we know that he was Greek by birth, that is, pagan (cf. Galatians 2:3). Paul took him to Jerusalem on the occasion of the so-called Apostolic Council, in which the preaching of the Gospel to pagans was solemnly accepted without imposing upon them the precepts of the Mosaic law.

In the Letter he addresses to him, the Apostle praises him describing him as “my true child in our common faith” (Titus 1:4). After Timothy went to Corinth, Paul sent Titus with the task to call that rebellious community to obedience. Titus brought peace to the Church of Corinth and the Apostle wrote these words: “But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only with his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more…. Therefore we are comforted. And besides our own comfort we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his mind has been set at rest by you all” (2 Corinthians 7:6-7,13). Paul again sent Titus — whom he called “partner and co-worker” (2 Corinthians 8:23) — to organize the completion of the collections for the Christians of Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8:6). Subsequent news found in these pastoral letters speak of him as bishop of Crete (cf. Titus 1:5), from whence, by invitation of Paul, he joined the Apostle in Nicopolis, in Epirus, (cf. Titus 3:12). Later he also went to Dalmatia (cf. 2 Timothy 4:10). We do not have any more information on Titus’ subsequent trips or on his death.

In short, if we consider together the two figures of Timothy and Titus, we are aware of some significant facts. The most important is that Paul used collaborators in the development of his missions. He is, of course, the Apostle par excellence, founder and pastor of many Churches. Nevertheless, it is clear that he did not do it all alone, but leaned on trustworthy persons, who shared the effort and responsibilities.

To be pointed out, moreover is the willingness of his collaborators. The sources we have on Timothy and Titus underline their willingness to take on the different tasks, which often consisted in representing Paul even in difficult circumstances. In other words, they teach us to serve the Gospel with generosity, knowing that this also implies a service to the Church herself.

Let us take up, finally, the recommendation that the Apostle Paul makes to Titus in the letter he addresses to him: “This saying is trustworthy. I want you to insist on these points, that those who have believed in God be careful to devote themselves to good works; these are excellent and beneficial to others” (Titus 3:8). With our concrete commitment, we must and can discover the truth of these words, and carry out in this season of Advent good works to open the doors of the world to Christ, our Savior.

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~ by Rob on December 14, 2006.

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