The Apostle Paul while in prison in Rome foresees that the day of his martyrdom is very near. Thence, he feels the need to send his Second Epistle to his devoted Disciple, Timothy, whom he had placed as Bishop in Ephesus and to bestow upon him his last pieces of advice.
In verses 10-15 of the third Chapter of this Epistle, Paul the Apostle underlines for Timothy two very serious subjects:
The first one is to not lose courage on account of the adversities and the persecutions which he will face, as expected, in his apostolic endeavor. To this end, he is reminding him of those things he had been taught by him that is, Paul - in words and deeds. Timothy had a personal experience of the persecutions that Paul had suffered in his own home city, Lystra, as well as in the nearby cities like, Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium and elsewhere. Especially at Lystra, the Jews had bitterly stoned Paul to the point of “supposing him to be dead” (Acts 14:19). What Paul is reminding Timothy is that he had suffered all these with an unshakeable faith in Christ’s protection, with forbearance towards his persecutors with patience and love like that Christ had shown to those who crucified him; and that out of everything he had suffered, the Almighty Lord had delivered him.(Cf.verse 11).
Following this, Paul is reminding Timothy that he (Timothy) is not the only one who is suffering. Because all those who also want to live a life of piety, in accordance with the will of Christ, will suffer persecution (Cf. verse 12). Is it not exactly that which the Lord had said to His Disciples? “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20); and “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:3).
The first thing, therefore, that Saint Paul the Apostle states emphatically to Timothy, but also to all of us, is this: tribulation and persecutions, either small or great, which we suffer because we are Christians and because we want to live a life according to God, we must face with faith, love, patience, courage and confidence in Christ’s protection.
The second thing that Saint Paul the Apostle underlines for Timothy and for all of us is: to remain steadfast in everything we have learned and we believe as Orthodox Christians. The Apostle does not hesitate to say that, “evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving others and being deceived by others who are like them” (verse 13). There are such evil people who create the impression to society that they have been successful in life, dragging also some who are naive to follow them to their own downhill path. Thus, we hear naïve people saying that, In today’s world and society if you do not steal, or if you do not say lies you cannot survive. “You, however”, the Apostle goes on, “must continue being steadfast in the things you have learned and been assured of, … and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (verses 14-15).
My beloved brothers and sisters, this is the lesson which our Church has determined that be read in the Orthodox churches today when the Triodion, the period of an outmost compunction in the Ecclesiastical Year, begins. And this was set by the Church in order to help us face, with courage and steadfastness, the various difficulties related to the spiritual struggles of this period, like: taming of selfishness and of pharisaic mentality and behavior, that today’s Gospel reading spoke to us about; also sobriety, fasting, controlling the tongue …. All this also, in order to urge us to read more frequently and to delve deeper into the notions of the Holy Bible, something which makes us wise in the manner of Christ.
Thus, from today till Easter, our Mother Church, in a wise manner, will be helping us climb the steps of virtues (as Saint John of Sinai has explained in his book Climax = “Ladder [of Divine Ascent]”) and, in a spiritual way, crucify ourselves and meet together with Christ, becoming worthy of sitting next to Him in His Heavenly Kingdom!