Scripture: Lectionary # 425: I Thess.1:2-5,8-10. Psalm 149:1-2, 3-4.5-6.9.
Paul has the distinct honor of being the first inspired writer of the New
Testament. His Epistle to the Thessalonians is the first written scripture
of the New Testament preceding the Gospels which were written some twenty
to fifty years later. Paul also has seven authentic letters among the
thirteen attributed to him in our Catholic Tradition. The seven are I and
II Thessalonians, Romans, I and II Corinthians, Galatians, Philemon, and
Philippians. We know from the affection shown in the opening lines of I
Thessalonians that the church there is deeply loved as is the church in
Phillipi. The epistle has the tone of a pastor speaking to his favorite
church gathering. He and Timothy and Silvanus (Silas) have planted and
watered the seed there and at Philippi.
Paul is the first writer to convey to us in a clear way the three
"theological" virtues of faith, hope, and love. They are called theological
for they are our relationship with God through prayer, commitment, and
ministry. We all who are baptized have received them at the moment and
sacred event of our baptism. They are to be developed in the presence ever
abiding of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Paul mentions all three
persons of the Trinity in which our faith, hope, and love reside and are
developed within us.
With the liturgical reading of the the first chapter of the very first
epistle written, we should avail ourselves of some prayer time dedicated to
the virtues mentioned. Paul describes the "work" of faith, "the endurance"
of hope, and the "labor" of love. Our Prayer is relational in that it is
made to God through the Spirit and in the saving actions of the Son of God
for us. It is remarkable that Paul links the three virtues to the Trinity
in this very first letter to the people of Thessalonica. We may wish to
associate these three with other qualifiers than those used by Paul. For
example faith is able to help us in searching beyond our limits and doubts
into the mystery of God; hope is an energizing virtue that helps us to
reach out and make the future better for our brothers and sisters; love is
pervasive of itself and is goodness personified. It binds all together so
much so that God tells us that "God is Love."
The letter is foundational for early thoughts on the Second Coming of
Christ; for giving us the triad of virtues: faith, hope, and love; and for
mentioning the equality of Jesus with God and the work of the Spirit in
inspiring the Christians who have embraced the faith. Raymond F. Collins
points out the great Gospel message it contains: "The letter provides the
oldest literary evidence of the significance attached to the death and
resurrection of Jesus by the early Christians."
Lord, help us not to be fearful about the time of your second coming (the
Parousia) nor allow us to be negligent in our duties and our work. We need
to strenghten what you have given us as spiritual gifts at our
Baptism--faith, hope, and love. We need to see that our belief in God is
primary, our enduring hope in the saving action of Jesus' passion, death,
and resurrection sustains us in time of trial and sorrow, and that our love
is the abiding Presence of the Holy Spirit. We are temples of the Holy
Spirit and we need to live without desecrating the temple of God that our
bodies are. We ask for this grace through Jesus you Son who lives and
reigns among us in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever. Amen.
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