Titus 2:1-8, 11-14
Psalm 37:3-4, 18, 23, 27, 29
I would never get away with giving this advice: "women should work at home, under the control of their husbands." And really, the most controversial part of the reading has been cut out. After his advice about young men, St. Paul has some advice for slaves. "Slaves are to be submissive to their masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not stealing, but showing all good faith." Why does he give advice that is so unacceptable in our own time? It would be easy to say that St. Paul was man of his era, giving advice that just does not stand the test of time. It is easy to get that interpretation started, but where does it stop? Any line in the Bible can then be called “out of date”. It spreads like wildfire until everything I agree with is wisdom, and everything I disagree with is out of date.
The reason St. Paul gives for the advice is “that the word of God may not be discredited”, and “that the opponent will be put to shame without anything bad to say about us.” He is not praising slavery. He is saying that a Christian slave should take advantage of the opportunity their suffering provides, so that people will say, “My slave is a Christian, so I know that I can trust him.” Everyone will agree that Christian wives are particularly skilled and hardworking. They will agree that Christian old men are dignified and temperate, and that Christian old women are pious and do not gossip. It goes beyond not committing sins to being good in the eyes of the world.
The point of all this advice is to glorify God, so that even our enemies are forced to admit that Christians are unusually good. Kind of the opposite of how things are now, .where you cannot mention priests and children in the same sentence without people thinking about sex abuse. People used to have a lot of respect for Catholics. The only accusations our enemies could throw at us were how we prayed too much, went to Confession too often, and had too many children. God is good no matter what, and the religion is good because it comes from God, but, unless the people are good and extraordinarily good, how will the world be able to see it? It does not require much. The actions of a few people have given the Church a bad name, but the actions of a few Saints can turn things completely around. When we want to prove what the Church is capable of, we still point to people like Mother Theresa and Francis and a few thousand other saints. Of course the likely thing is to end up as just one more, like the great mass of humanity, but the possibility is there to be something else, an example we can point to and say: “look at that, that is why I believe”.