The December 29, 1913 issue of a local London newspaper had the following advertisement for a work: “Men wanted for a hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.”
One would assume that nobody would be interested in such work. In reality, about five thousand people responded to the ad and expressed a desire to sign up for the job. The ad was signed by the famous Antarctic explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton, which made it so appealing to so many.
Christ never promised great rewards or recognition for those who would follow him. In fact, he warned them of persecution and rejection. Yet, many answered his call, embraced his Gospel and enlisted in the newfound church as preachers, pastors and missionaries.
Young Timothy was one of those who responded to Christ’s call. St. Paul was his mentor and spiritual father. We know that Timothy sometimes accompanied St. Paul during his missionary work and served in some of the communities founded by St. Paul.
One of today’s lectionary readings is a pastoral letter that St. Paul wrote to Timothy. In the opening paragraphs, St. Paul reminds Timothy about the core principle that holds the Christian community together – love. He proceeds to explain that the source of Christian love is “pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5).
Often, we might not associate ‘good conscience’ with love. Sometimes, ‘good conscience’ might not even be something that plays an active and vital role in our faith and life. One way that God reaches out to us, speaks and enters our lives is through our conscience. 19th-century theologian Cardinal John Henry Newman defined conscience as the ‘aboriginal Vicar of Christ’.
But why a ‘good conscience’? Isn’t that the only type of conscience there is? I think it is crucial to recognize that our conscience is only good if it has an active role and function in our lives. It is good only if we are attuned to its soft sound, only if we are ready to accept and recognize the voice of our Saviour speaking to us through our conscience.
Sometimes, it might not be an easy thing to do. The good conscience might conflict and contradict with what we desire to do or hold close to our hearts. It might point to a path that we don’t want or are not ready to travel on. So we might decide to ignore it and go on with our lives. Over time, the conscience’s voice will deteriorate and eventually be replaced by silence. A silent conscience is a warning sign that our communion and connection with the Lord might be disrupted, wounded and in need of our attention and effort so it can be restored and healed.
My dear brothers and sisters, this week, let us make it a priority to find time and space for examining, reviving and renewing our good conscience. So that through our prayerful reflection it might shine its light again on our lives and guide us to our beloved Lord and savior.