Put Up With Hardship

The passage of St. Paul’s letter to Timothy that is the first reading for today’s Mass is properly addressed to all Christians.  He writes:

“Proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.  For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths.  But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry.”

At the risk of being tautological, it is easy to be a disciple when it is easy, when things are running smoothly.  But the command is that we proclaim the word and evangelize by our words and deeds even when thing are not running smoothly, that we put up with whatever hardship stands in our way.

It is no accident that this reading is paired with the Gospel story we often refer to as the story of the widow’s mite.  In contrast to the rich people giving large sums of money to the temple, the widow carefully puts into the temple treasury “two small coins worth a few cents.”  Yet Jesus tells his disciples that she has given more than the rest: “For they have all contributed from their surplus welath, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.” 

It is easy to give when we have plenty, when it doesn’t cost.  But the widow gives her all, she gives even when the giving hurts.

As I prayed with these passages this morning, I reflected on several questions.  Do I proclaim the Word only when it is easy or even when it is inconvenient to do so?  Do I give all or do I hold back?  We could all profitably reflect on what it means to give our all to God, to hold back nothing, regardless of the cost and the difficulty.