Do not be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the Gospel in the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not in virtue of our works but in virtue of His own purpose and the grace which He gave us in Christ Jesus ages ago, and now has manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel. For this Gospel I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, and therefore I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know Whom I have believed, and I am sure that He is able to guard until that Day which has been entrusted to me. Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus; guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, and among them Phygelus and Hermogenes. May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me; he was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me and eagerly found me-may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day-and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.
II Timothy 1: 8-18 (Epistle for Feast of St. Eleftherios)
The story of St. Eletherios (celebrated on December 15) is remarkable because of what he was able to accomplish in a very short life. He was born to affluent parents. His father had an important position in the Roman government. But his father died when Eleftherios was just a boy. His mother, Anthia, became a devout Christian and Eleftherios accepted Christianity as well. Had his father, a pagan, lived, who know how the story might have turned out differently.
Eleftherios was like a child prodigy. He was intelligent, articulate and an overachiever. His intellect and spirituality because very well known. He was ordained a deacon at fifteen, a priest at seventeen and a bishop at twenty, the youngest bishop in history.
The Roman Emperor heard of Eletherios and was not pleased to hear how he was converting people to Christianity. So he sent some soldiers to arrest Eleftherios. As they arrived at his church to arrest him, they heard a sermon that was so eloquent that they converted to Christianity. Eleftherios insisted that they take him back to Rome, the job they had come to do. Reluctantly, Felix, who was in charge of the detachment of soldiers, took Eleftherios back to Rome.
Eleftherios was subjected to dreadful tortures. He withstood them with such a great deal of faith that the governor in charge of torturing him decided to also become a Christian. His name was Choribus. The emperor was so mad, that he had both Choribus and Felix beheaded. Then he had Eleftherios beheaded. And as Anthea came to embrace her son’s remains, the emperor ordered her to be beheaded. All of this happened in the early second century, making St. Eleftherios one of the early saints of our church.
Saint Paul, in his letter to Timothy, reminds us that being a Christian may bring us both shame and suffering. The message of the Gospel will not bring joy to those whose ears are closed to hearing it and whose hearts are hardened against it. While it is hard to imagine the hostility to Christianity in the Roman Empire of nearly 2,000 years ago, we hear the hostility towards the Christian message plenty in the world today. Standing up and proclaiming our faith will cause us a great deal of scorn. Which is why many Christians seem to be Christians in secret. Sure, we don’t sneak to church and perhaps we are not ashamed to wear a cross, but our politically correct society has conditioned us to remain silent when it comes to our faith.
Saint Paul reminds us that the authentic Christian will “share in suffering for the Gospel” (II Timothy 1: 8). He boldly testifies that “I am not ashamed, for I know Whom I have believed, and I am sure that He is able to guard until that Day which has been entrusted to me.” (1:12) He is confident in not only his call, but his ultimate destination, Paradise, and that is enough to withstand any shame that would be sent his way. He encourages us to “follow the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus; guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit.” (1:13-14) In order to have confidence, we must follow the sound words of Scripture and guard their truth. Obedience and vigilance also work the other way, to inspire confidence. Saint Paul points out that people in Asia turned away from him but others like Onesiphorus helped him. And so it is in the Christian life. Authentic Christianity will offend some, but will draw others. Saint Paul reminds us to not be ashamed of our identity as Christians or neglect our call, but to live with faith and confidence in who we are and what we’ve been called to do.
In each of our lives, we write a narrative, for ourselves, with others. From this narrative comes a reputation, successes, failures, etc. Others can write a narrative about us, as they get to know us. Ask yourself, what kind of narrative are you writing as a Christian? And if God is writing a narrative about my life, what would He be writing? At the end of the day, God’s narrative about our life is the only thing that matters.
You were fully adorned with the sacred priestly robes. You were dripping with streams of your own martyric blood. In this state, you ran to Christ your Master, O blessed Saint Eleftherius, destroyer of Satan; you are wise. Therefore cease not interceding for us who loyally honor your blessed contest of martyrdom. (Apolytikion of St. Eleftherios, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Be a committed and confident Christian today!