August 23rd, 2021
UNITY OF TRUTH AND VIRTUE
1 Thessalonians 1:1-5, 8-10
Psalms 149:1-2, 3-4, 5-6 & 9
The faithful disciple will always have a life marked with joy and peace, in contrast to the sense of anger and frustration of a deluded religious person. This does not mean that the life of a true believer is not challenging and difficult, in fact a believer’s life is often marked by rough times. What is different is that one who is aware of God’s presence in her/his life is able to face the rough times with a sense of faith, hope and love that is not as evident in the life of the misdirected person.
Our readings give a sharp contrast between the faithful believer and the person of false religiosity. In the introduction of his letter to the Church of the Thessalonians, St. Paul praise their faith, love and hope.St. Paul writes his letter to the faith community of the Thessalonians where he praises God for their response to his preaching and their acceptance of God’s gifts. He mentions for the first time together, the three gifts of faith, hope and love commonly known as the “theological virtues".
Paul is pleased at how well the believers in this community have embraced not only the teachings, but the practice of their new found faith. He remarks how they have truly turned from their false worship of idols to the worship of the one, true God. They are anxiously awaiting the return of the Lord Jesus.
In his letters to the Thessalonians he seems to realize that the Lord Jesus may not come back quite as soon as he first believed. He still edifies the faithful and encourages them to continue in their faith, their love, and their hope based upon Jesus’ eventual return and to rejoice that the Lord Jesus is with them right now, even if Jesus has not yet fully returned as He will at the end of time.
In the Gospel, in sharp contrast to the joy and praise of, and for, the truly faithful, Jesus criticizes the religiosity of some of the religious leaders. Their attitude of superiority prevents true believers from experiencing the Reign of God. Because of the fears and insecurities in their own lives, they put so many obstacles and stumbling blocks in the way of converts to the faith.
Jesus also declares a message of woe to the false leaders of the faith who wrongly give more value to the gold and the gifts which are used in the Temple and in worship than to the Temple and the altar which are the truly holy objects because they represent the presence of God.
Jesus’ condemnation of the practices of the hypocritic leaders is a warning also to those who would be His disciples not to misplace their priorities in being members of the Reign of God, speaking especially to those who have positions of leadership in the faith community.
Dear Christians, today we are encouraged to be open to God’s being with us, God’s taking a delight in us because we are God’s beloved. We must spend time in prayer and the reading of God’s Word and reflection. We must also seek out those who exude the holiness of God in their lives, especially those who have weathered the storms of life and have kept the faith as they were battered about.
We must also be willing to walk with those who travel through the dark valley and do not sense the presence of the Lord Jesus and we must assure them that they are the beloved of God. We should strive to bring them the faith, hope and love that they seem to lack.
May God continue leading us in His right paths.