Thursday of Week 21 of Ordinary Time – First Reading

Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 3:7-13

Troubled by the lack of news concerning the Thessalonians, Paul had sent Timothy to Thessalonica as his representative to see how things were going in the new community.  Timothy had come back with a very encouraging report, except for certain possible shortcomings in their faith. 

Paul is probably dealing with these defects in the last two chapters of the letter.  Today’s reading reflects Paul’s reaction to the report he had been given. Paul tells the Thessalonians that their faith has been a great encouragement in the middle of the distress and hardship endured by him and his companions.   He feels he can now relax because they are remaining firm in their faith:

How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you?

Paul is grateful that his work of evangelisation in Thessalonica has been so effective. 

He might have congratulated himself on work well done, but instead he thanks God for the joy he gets from what God had done:

Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.

He concludes with a lovely triple prayer.  The theme of the prayer is solidarity: between Paul and the Thessalonian Christians; among themselves; between them and people everywhere (Christian love); and between them and God (holiness).

Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you.

In other words, may there not be too many obstacles in their coming face to face again soon.

And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you.

In Paul’s writings ‘Lord’ usually refers to Jesus and not to the Father.  And he urges an all-inclusive love.  Brotherly love of one another in the Christian community is only the beginning of charity; ultimately, it has to spread to love for every single person everywhere. 

And, once again, Paul asserts his deep affection for the Christians of Thessalonica:

And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints

The word ‘holy’ (hagios) means ‘set apart (for God)’.  It is used regularly in the New Testament for members of the Christian communities who, by their calling in Christ, are set apart from other people.  But here ‘holy ones’ may refer to those already with God, those who have completed the work of becoming ‘holy’ and who will return with Jesus at the Parousia. Or it may also refer to the angels.

Paul’s prayer is that when the Lord comes (a constant theme in these two letters) the Thessalonians will be ready, holy and blameless in God’s sight. Let us, too, remain firm in our service of Jesus Christ that we, too, may be ready to welcome the Lord however and whenever he comes to call us.

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