Lectio Divina on 1 Tim 1: 15-20 – Commentary of St. Thomas Aquinas to the Letters of St Paul1.
This is the latest from Fr Marcelo of the order the Institute of the Incarnate Word. For directions on how to use this meditation as part of the ancient technique of reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation called lectio divina, read his article with simple direction on the technique of lectio divina on Claritas, here.
This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
Of these I am the foremost.
But for that reason I was mercifully treated,
so that in me, as the foremost,
Christ Jesus might display all his patience as an example
for those who would come to believe in him for everlasting life.
To the king of ages, incorruptible, invisible, the only God,
honor, and glory forever and ever. Amen.
Here is a brief reflection to be used as an aid to lectio divina on the Memorial of Saints Cornelius and Cyprian. The summary is taken from St Thomas Aquinas on the commentary to this text.
All benefits are received come from God’s mercy. St. Paul refers to himself as the first of sinners saved from sin by the Lord himself. This word (saying) is trustworthy, contains the truth, therefore, is acceptable because it concerns our salvation. Why is it trustworthy? Because Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, which shows his two natures: divine, that was his before He came into the world, and human, in which He appeared in the world. Why did He come? to save sinners, for the salvation of his people: to save the world through Him (Jn 3: 17).
Would he become incarnate has there been no sin? With great wisdom, St Thomas says that this question is unimportant. God has made things as they should have been made, and we do not know his dispositions if He had not anticipated sin. (Aquinas personally believes that Christ had not become incarnate if there was no sin).
Paul refers to himself as the first sinner, not in time but rather due to the magnitude of his sins. And he says so in humility. Some say Paul’s sin was more universal than Judas, as it was against the entire Church; however, this was done for lack of faith. He is the foremost of sinners among those sinners who were saved. The reason why St. Paul says this is to demonstrate that God acts to show his goodness, so the glory of the Lord fills all his works (Sir 42: 16). Also, to show the usefulness of his goodness: the endurance or forbearance of God, i.e., He has not punished the Apostle, then, it becomes an example and teaching for all sinners to get closer to God.
Then, the Apostle refers to the Lord as a King, the king of ages: to govern the world belongs to God’s nature. Thus, honor and glory are due to Him as if giving thanks. All creatures must show Him submission [because] He has shown his most excellent goodness, splendor, and glory (cf. Rev 7: 12).
In the following verses, Paul teaches Timothy to be firm on these things: to keep the goal of the Law, i.e., to always observe charity. And in what manner? First, in accordance with the prophecies to fight the good fight, which is a double militia: spiritual and corporal. There is an exhortation to the good fight “with faith”, the victory that conquers the world is our faith (1 Jn 5: 4), With good conscience and faith, sinners stay away from sin.
We can find several points for reflection in this brief but beautiful text, which originates in the spiritual experience of sin and mercy of St Paul:
- All benefits come from God’s mercy.
- His divine word is most reliable and concerns our salvation, therefore we should meditate it assiduously.
- The consideration of our sins should lead us to greater humility and trust in God, and help us avoid sin in the future.
- Our subjection to God manifests his goodness, splendor and glory.
- Our faith is the key to conquer sin and difficulties.
- All our actions should be performed in charity.
Let us pray for a good conscience and the grace to stay away from sin.
May our Blessed Mother, model of purity and love, inspire us to love her Son with a pure heart.
1 S. TOMMASO D’AQUINO, Commento al Corpus Paulinum (Expositio et lectura super epistolas Pauli Apostoli). Vol. 5, Edizioni Studio Domenicano, Bologna, Italy, 2008. My translation.
Fr. Marcelo J. Navarro Muñoz, IVE
The feature image is of St Anthony Abbot overlooking Ss Cornelius and Cyprian, by Veronese, Italian 16th century