Wednesday of Week 21 of Ordinary Time – First Reading

Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

Paul defends his behaviour with the Thessalonians where he had been treated very badly by a group of people. He reminds them of how he and his fellow evangelisers used to work night and day so as not to be a burden on them while they preached the Gospel among them. 

We know that, wherever he could, Paul supported himself and was not ashamed to be known by his trade, a tentmaker.  As he said in yesterday’s reading, he never insisted on what he believed were his rights as an evangeliser. The Greeks tended to despise manual labour and viewed it as fit only for slaves, but Paul was not ashamed of doing any sort of work that would help further the Gospel.  He never wanted to be unnecessarily dependent on others.

The Thessalonians themselves have seen – as has God himself – how Paul’s behaviour among them has always been impeccable and upright.  Paul never hesitates to admit his weaknesses, but he also is not afraid to speak of his strengths and he does here (see also his strong self-defence in 2 Corinthians). He and his companions always treated the Thessalonians as a father would his children, urging them, encouraging them, and appealing to them to live a life worthy of the God who calls them to share his kingdom and his glory. He is proud of the example he has set to others.  It was a work combining both dedication and affection. 

In calling them to share God’s kingdom he is true to the core of Jesus’ teaching.  ‘Kingdom’ is not a term Paul uses very often, but he did use it once to sum up the message of his teaching.  This was during his address of farewell to the elders at Ephesus:

And now I know that none of you, among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom, will ever see my face again. (Acts 20:25)

Now Paul continually thanks God for them, because as soon as they heard the word which Paul brought them as God’s message, they welcomed it for what it was – not the word of a mere human being (Paul) but God’s own word, a power that is now working among them as believers. 

This perception has enabled them to be steadfast in the face of opposition. We have here, too, a brief summary of the apostolic tradition: the message is first ‘received’, or ‘heard’.  It then penetrates the mind or heart, where it is welcomed, and proves that the hearer acknowledges God has been speaking through his missionary.

In all our Christian living we, too, need to be aware that our greatest impact is made not just by the words we speak, but also by the example of our lives – by the love and care and compassion that we show.  And the real test of our Christian witness is not that people say how holy we are, but that they themselves are led to God.

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