Characteristics of Christian Life

14 November 2006: Tuesday of the 32nd Week in Ordinary Time
Titus 2, 1-8.11-14: St. Joseph Pignatelli SJ

The first reading outlines the Christian character expected of Christians from all ages. Let me explain what is expected of each age according to St. Paul. Later, we may just categorize them into two bigger groups: the senior citizens and the young. What Paul says of older men and women, will now apply to all seniors. What Paul says of younger women and men, will now apply to all the young. Nevertheless, it is good in understanding the bible to put it in its context -- time, place, culture--- and then, apply what can be values to our present generation.

First, the older men. It is expected that senior men must be “sober, serious, and prudent” and should be “healthy in faith, love and fortitude.” Let me explain each. The Greek word for sober is nēphalios which means that an older person should have learned from his past what are true and false pleasures. It is the opposite of over-indulgence which is a characteristic of the young. For serious, the Greek word is semnos, which does not mean the rigid, dark, gloomy and killjoy type. It describes the behavior of a person who knows what is right and what actions are appropriate for a mature individual. For prudent, the Greek word is sōphrōn, used for a person who has control over his passions and instincts and discerns appropriate words and behavior at the proper place and time. For Paul, to have faith means to trust God. To have love is to acquire a warm care for people, and to have fortitude is to possess that strength of character that helps overcome difficulties.

Second, for older women. The early Church places an important role to older women. Paul said that they should act as people in charge of sacred things --- like priestesses in temples. It is a life lead remembering that a Christian life is meant to be holy. Moreover, the older women should not engage in slanderous talk or gossip. Though, gossip has been elevated nowadays as a favorite pastime. Paul however advises against it. Furthermore, Paul exhorts the older women to teach and train the young.

Third, for younger women. The Greek society puts young women in charge of their husbands and the making of their home. As mothers, they were expected to do their duties for their children. Let us adapt this to the present culture knowing that many women now are not confined to the home. We may say that young women must now learn to be responsible for people given to their care – whether in the home, office, or school.

Fourth, for young men. The first reading tells it all in one sentence, “In the same way, urge on the younger men to be prudent. The Greek word for prudence is the same as that used for the older men, sōphrōn. But it has a different context. The young has overflowing and uncontrollable passions. Often they yield to temptations easily. They can be reckless and thoughtless most of the time. They have the adventurous spirit that enables them to take risks without much experience, deliberation and calculation. To be prudent therefore means that the young must learn to have the sufficient self-control and presence of mind when they make decisions and maintaining relationships. The book of Proverbs tells us that “He who rules his spirit is greater than he who takes a city” (Proverbs 16, 32). Thus, a young man must learn to discipline himself. When the young with energy and vigor is supported by a strong backbone, he or she becomes a great person.

So, let us reflect on our lives and use these parameters to evaluate our character. If you are a senior citizen (40 years old and above, according to the McCann-Erickson Survey), are you growing in sobriety, seriousness, and prudence? Are you becoming healthy in faith, love and fortitude? Are you getting older gracefully and warm, than cranky and cold? If you are young (39 and below, McCann-Erickson 2006), are you getting more disciplined and responsible? Are you able to temper your passions and strong emotions? Are you getting to be responsible and prudent?

*members of the UP Concert Chorus, in thanksgiving for a successful world tour. They had masses for this dinner.

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