Beloved, this saying is trustworthy. 1 Timothy 3:1
Last week, as I was preparing for this homily, I was asked to celebrate the Saturday Mass for our weekend retreat at Mater Dolorosa. When I read the first reading for the Saturday Mass, a reading from St. Paul’s letter to Timothy, St. Paul states: “This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance.” (I Tim. 1:15) Then I reread the first reading for today’s Mass and Paul says, “This saying is trustworthy” to Bishop Timothy, a young man whom Paul mentored as he went about his missionary journeys.
What does trustworthy mean and why is it important? As I reflected on those questions, I went back to the New Testament and discovered that this word is used 21 times in the Gospels and the other books of the New Testament. We first find it used by Jesus who tells us that someone who is trustworthy in small matters will also be trustworthy in great ones (Luke 16:10). For the early church, being trustworthy was very important and the only to know if a person is trustworthy is by looking at what person says and does. As St. Luke explains in the Gospel passage cited, a person who lies, is dishonest and disrespects others is not trustworthy. We really do not need an expert to tell us this. Even a child knows when we are being trustworthy and when we are deceitful.
Recently, I began reading a biography of the Lutheran martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who became a theologian and a pastor when Hitler began his rise as leader in Germany. He came from a wealthy, well know family in Germany. Shortly after Hitler’s election, Bonhoeffer broadcasted a sermon over the radio in which he said that Hitler was not trustworthy and why. The radio station stopped transmitting mid-sermon, but no one would be able to stop him from preaching the Gospel. As we know, the German authorities later arrested him, threw him into a concentration camp and executed him. Of course, he was not the only one who condemned Hitler for his policy of extermination of the Jewish race and other crimes against humanity, but certainly he continues to be an outstanding example of someone who knows the difference between someone who is trustworthy and one who is not.
So, when Paul writes to Timothy, he is telling him to pay attention to what is trustworthy. Who is Timothy supposed to trust? Who are we supposed to trust? God and God’s Word. God acts of Love, which includes Jesus’ death on the Cross. The word and testimony of the many men and women over the centuries who have taught us the Gospel of Jesus, its values, its way of life, its sayings, and its saving message of grace. That is trustworthy and worthy of full acceptance!
St. Paul is asking us to be trustworthy ourselves. And Paul is also asking us not to be deceived by people who are not trustworthy. The rest of the first reading describes people who are trustworthy and people who are not. What a wonderful message we have to today’s times!
In whom do we put our trust?
Fr. Clemente Barrón, C.P. is a member of Christ the King Community in Citrus Heights, California.