In Season and Out of Season
“Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season.”* (2 Timothy 4:2, click here for the full passage) When are we to preach the word? Always! When are we to hold back from preaching the word? Never!
This comes late in Paul’s second letter to his disciple, Timothy, in what Paul may very well have thought would be his last words to Timothy, so he’s serious about this. He urges his young friend never to forget what his (and our) calling is, and never to let distractions cause him to set that priority aside.
When he says “preach the word,” I don’t think that means just telling others about Jesus, although it certainly must include that. I think he means the gamut of what the Scripture proclaims to us. Just a few verses earlier he wrote, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” so he seems to be working from a broad understanding of what “the Word” includes.
Sometimes this comes as service to one in need, sometimes love for another, sometimes prayer, sometimes just doing the right thing. But it also must include the actual proclamation. The goal is not that others think we are good people. The goal is actually twofold (at least). First, we are transformed in the faithful service and, second, others at least get a glimpse of Jesus in us.
I want to make special note of two things Paul says. First, as noted above, there is never a time to slack off all that we do that proclaims Jesus to the world around us. Second, he goes on to say that we are to proclaim “with the utmost patience in teaching.” We can’t expect others to understand what we do immediately. We need to teach. And we are to do so patiently, never frustrated, short tempered, nor concluding that “this one is a waste of time.” We keep going. Even when it doesn’t seem to get through. In season and out of season!
Where in your life to you let God’s Word be “out of season?”
Fr. Eric Turner
* I’ve actually used an older translation (RSV) because I find the language so much more evocative. The newer translation (NRSV), which we will hear on Sunday goes like this: “proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable.”
This column appeared in the October 20, 2019 issue of St. John’s eNews. Click here for the complete issue.
If you are reading this at a different time, you may click here for the current eNews.