Saturday of Week 21 of Ordinary Time – First Reading

Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12

Paul provides two pieces of advice for the Thessalonians today.  They have heeded Christ’s message of love of neighbour and should improve it within the community.  Paul urges that they concern themselves with their own affairs, each labouring faithfully to earn his own living and all presenting a good example to the outside world.

Having warned them about sexual abuses (‘loving’ in the wrong way), Paul now goes on to speak about true love for each other.  ‘Brotherly love’ (Greek, philadelphia) was originally spoken of siblings of the same parent.  But in the New Testament it always means love of fellow-believers in Christ, all of whom have the same heavenly Father. Paul feels there is really no need to write to them about this, because they have already learnt that lesson from God.  Not only that, this is the way they have been dealing with their brothers and sisters in Christ all over Macedonia (of which Thessalonica was the capital city).  But, again as before, he suggests there is room for improvement.

He cites a few areas:

  • They should make a point of living quietly and at peace with each other.
  • They should attend to their own affairs and not meddle in those of others.
  • They should earn their own living, working with their hands, as Paul had taught them.
  • The Greeks in general thought that manual labour was degrading and fit only for slaves.  However, the Christians did take seriously the need for earning their own living, but some of the Thessalonians, perhaps as a result of their belief in the imminent return of Christ (see 2 Thess 3:11), were neglecting work and relying on others to support them.  And these same people, with nothing to do, were perhaps urging others to join them.  Paul says they should keep their ideas to themselves and not interfere with people who are trying to make a living in a normal way.

    If they live as Paul suggests, the Thessalonian Christians will earn the respect of outsiders and not be dependent on others, because they are taking care of their own needs.  On the other hand, Christians in need because of their idleness are not true Christians.

    Trust in God is all very well, but we are also expected to use the gifts he has given us.  Today’s Gospel speaks of how three people used the talents God gave them.

    A saying has been attributed to St Ignatius Loyola which fits:

    Pray as if everything depended on God and nothing on you; and do all things as if everything depended on you and nothing on God.

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