January 26, 2011 - Memorial of Saint Timothy and Saint Titus, bishops

This Gospel is always an interesting one for a preacher.  Jesus tells a parable and then he gives his own homily explaining the parable. I could simply repeat everything that Jesus says, but I will not improve on his homily in any way. I would simply draw attention to his final point: if you want to know whether you are making progress in the spiritual life, see whether you are producing any good fruit.  What are fruit? Conversions of others, virtues in your own life, happiness of those who live with you, miracles of all sorts.  If you are not producing fruit, change something.

Jesus begins his homily telling why he only explains the parables in private after preaching them publicly: “that they may look and see but not perceive, and hear and listen but not understand, in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.” This answer should surprise us, especially if we thought that Jesus wanted to convert people. Of course Jesus is a greater preacher than Paul and he can work any miracle that could ever be worked. Yet although, as today, we see crowds around Jesus, he did not make many converts during the three years before the Cross. Jesus tells us here that this was not accidental.

I say that this should surprise us, but it should not lead us to question Jesus. He knew what he was doing. Perhaps, had he converted any more people, he could not have died on the Cross.  As it was the Pharisees and Sadducees had to plot with all their cleverness and cunning to kill Jesus in spite of the crowd who supported him. Anyway, we can try to imagine the reasons why, but what we know for sure are the facts: Jesus could have preached in a clear way that would have converted the world, but he did not.

He instead left this to the apostles. To Peter and Paul and the rest.  Today we remember Timothy and Titus, two of the first bishops in the Church. As the apostles were completing their work, they left behind bishops to continue converting the unbelievers and caring for the believers. The apostles laid their hands on these men and they became bishops. When the bishops were completing their work, they laid hands on other men and made them bishops.  So it goes down to today and to our own bishops who are the successors of the apostles.