Tuesday of Week 21 of Ordinary Time – First Reading

Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

Although Paul in yesterday’s reading praised the Thessalonians for the depth of their faith whose reputation had spread far and wide, he recalls today some of the difficulties he faced at first in bringing the gospel message to the city. 

Paul had experienced such great opposition in Thessalonica that he and Silas had to be secretly escorted from the city (Acts 17:1-10).  This came on top of the humiliating experiences he had in Philippi where he and Silas were, as a result of false accusations, arrested, flogged and thrown into prison (from which they were rescued by an earthquake!). It is probably the memory of these experiences which underlies his words today recalling his selflessness in preaching the gospel to them, his affection for them, and the pleasant relationships he has with them now.

He begins by saying that they themselves know his visit to the Thessalonians has not been without effect.  The local church could refute accusations of insincerity which seem to have been levelled against Paul by certain hostile elements. In spite of the terrible abuse, including imprisonment, which he and Silas endured at Philippi, God still gave them the courage to preach the gospel fearlessly to the Thessalonians, even though they met with opposition there also.

When they first arrived, Paul made some converts among the Jews and a larger number among the Greeks but his activities aroused the anger and indignation of many Jews, who did not like Paul presenting Jesus as the Messiah.  These stirred up a riot in the city.  The result was that Jason, a supporter of Paul, and his family were seized, while Paul and his companion Silas had to be hurriedly taken away to another town.

Paul now assures the Thessalonians that his exhortations do not come from any deceit or impure motives or trickery.  The Greek word for ‘trickery’ was originally used of bait for catching fish and came to be used of any sort of cunning used for personal gain.

On the contrary, Paul and companions have God’s approval to be entrusted with the proclamation of the gospel and that is the basis of their preaching – to please God and not human beings.  For it is God who “tests our hearts”. In fact, they have never been motivated either by a desire to be flattered or for personal gain.  They have never sought any special honours either from the Thessalonians or anyone else, even though they could have insisted on their own dignity and prestige as apostles and messengers of Christ or that materially they could have expected to have been fed and kept at the Thessalonians’ expense.  Although Paul strongly believed that those preaching the gospel had the right to be supported by the communities they visited, he himself preferred to be self-supporting.

On the contrary, he says that they live a simple life and their concern is only those they serve:

So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.

At the same time, he and his co-workers are treating the Thessalonians with the greatest gentleness:

But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children.

What is always so striking is how Paul can see the hand of Christ in all that happens to him and his sheer unstoppable enthusiasm in sharing the gospel message with others, whatever the obstacles.  This was because the message was not just something he was handing on; it had entered the very fibre of his being.  As he will say elsewhere:

…it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. (Galatians 2:20)

Would that each one of us could say the same!  We cannot be preachers of the gospel until it is fully absorbed into our very selves.  It cannot be just a set of doctrines which we hold to be true.  We need the burning enthusiasm of Paul.

Comments Off on Tuesday of Week 21 of Ordinary Time – First Reading

Printed from LivingSpace - part of Sacred Space
Copyright © 2024 Sacred Space :: www.sacredspace.com :: All rights reserved.