(2nd Timothy 2: 1-10)
Today’s Apostolic Reading has been chosen by the Church to be read on the Feast Day of the Hieromartyr Charalambos. This is because what was written by the Apostle Paul in his 2nd Letter to Timothy from prison in Rome, was applied by Saint Charalambos until the end of his life. Therefore, we who are reading the New Testament today, can be assured that what is written there is not inapplicable (as some claim to justify their reluctance to keep the will of God). It can be done, as long as a person has the desire and tries to do it.
Saint Charalambos was born in 89 AD, that is, 22 years after the Apostle Paul's Martyrdom. It was a time of tough persecution against Christians. But Charalambos had the boldness in the year 130 to accept becoming a priest in Magnesia, near Smyrna. The grace of God strengthened him in this treacherous pastoral work. He preached Christ, despite the prohibitions of the idolatrous Roman emperor Severus. The Priest of Christ brought many idolaters to the Church. He blessed and sanctified the faithful by the Holy Sacraments. He supported them all in the Orthodox faith, without counting the dangers he experienced. He continued this holy mission for 72 years, up to the age of 113. For all of those years, Saint Charalambos practiced what we have heard today from the Apostle Paul writing to Timothy. His living connection with Christ richly brought upon him Divine Grace and strengthened him (verse 1).
What Hieromartyr Charalambos had heard from the first Bishop of Smyrna, Saint Voucolos and his successor, Saint Polycarp, was entrusted to the faithful people who then taught it to others. Thus the Church spread more widely (see verse 2). He pushed forward as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, without being involved in positions that would remove him from his main work, which aimed at the salvation of souls (see verse 3 and 4).
As an athlete, and a fighter of the good fight, he remained faithful to the principles of the spiritual contest, especially when he was arrested at the age of 113 by the ruler of the area, a harsh persecutor of Christians named Loukianos. In the cruel torture that was inflicted, the very old priest Charalambos shocked everyone with the peace and patience that he displayed as he suffered. With the wonderful events that took place, many idolaters came to believe in Christ, among them were the torturers themselves: Saint Porphyrios and Vaptos, who were later beheaded and honored by the Church as Holy Martyrs.
So Saint Charalambos could repeat the last words we heard today, of Paul the Apostle: For the Gospel of Christ, which I preach, I am abused as a villain. With patience I suffer martyrdom for the sake of the elect, so that they too can achieve salvation. The salvation that Christ brings to those who associate with Him, and gives them eternal glory (see verse 8-10).
My brothers and sisters, the faith of Christ has been preserved throughout these centuries. The persecution, imprisonment, martyrdom, heresies, and schisms did not destroy the faith in the hearts of the faithful devotees of Jesus Christ. Always remember The Crucified and Resurrected Lord, according to the Apostle Paul's exhortation (verse 8). Whatever happens in the lives of true Christians, they turn to Christ; they draw strength, patience, and peace to obtain the salvation brought by Jesus Christ to be eternally glorified (verse 10).
It is this faith and their love for Christ that they are trying to spread to others. May we all make this effort everyday.