Thursday of week 21 of Ordinary Time – First Reading

Commentary on 1 Thess 3:7-13

Troubled by the lack of news concerning the Thessalonians, Paul had sent Timothy to Thessalonika 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, for all the joy we feel before our God on your account?” Paul is grateful that his work of evangelisation in Thessalonika 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 he is earnestly praying to be able to see them face to face again and to make up for any shortcomings there may be in the living of their 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). “May God the Father and the Lord Jesus make our path to you a straight one!”  In other words, may there not be too many obstacles in their coming face to face again soon. “May the Lord increase and enrich your love for each other and for everyone, so that it matches ours 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 Thessalonika. “May the Lord so confirm your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless in the sight of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones!”  The word ‘holy’ (hagios, ‘agios) 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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