30th Sunday Ordinary Time
Deacon Tom Vert
Preached: October 29, 2023
Maybe, I will be seen as a Thessalonian?
We have all these letters from St. Paul to the cities that he travelled to and the first cities of the expanding Christian church. There is Corinthians, Colossians, Romans, Galatians, Philippians, and Thessalonians.
Sometimes I wonder, who were these people, what were their unique situations and in today’s readings, why is St. Paul so happy and proud of the people of Thessalonica?
Thessalonica is a city in modern day Greece about 5 hours north of Athens, and St. Paul visited it during his 2 nd mission trip. The city was a major port and on the key road between Europe and Asia, so it was very important in the region.
Paul was actually chased out of the city after 2-3 weeks by the local people and had to escape for his life, as they did not like the Christian message he was preaching. Later on, he sent Timothy back, and he gave a great report of the faith life of the people that he saw.
We see that Paul sent his letter because he is so thankful for the Christians thriving and becoming examples for the faith and community of believers, despite severe persecution in a hostile city that thy lived in.
The Thessalonians were living the message that we hear in the gospel today. The two verses just before the 2nd reading starts say this: “We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering … your work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul gives thanks for the Thessalonians for living the faith to the full with the virtues of faith, hope and love, and proving to be being imitators of Christ himself.
They are still 2000 years later, examples of what Christians can be, and I ask myself “can we at St. Catherine of Siena be the same?” Can we be messengers of faith, hope and love?
They received the word of joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, they heard the word and put it into action! We are told that the witness reached “every place where God is known”! We hear the same words of Christ this evening/morning, and we are challenged by God to the same actions and call to love as they were.
Now we realize that people of our time and at the time of Christ continue to ask, “how can we live out the faith life?”
In the gospel, we hear one of the Pharisees ask a simple question “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest”? And it was a bit of a trick question because the Pharisees followed 613 laws, all of
which they said were important.
Jesus, knowing what is in their hearts, boils it down to two simple commandments that essentially capture all 613 inside of them: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all of your mind, and you shall love your neighbour as yourself. Love is at the heart of who God is, and love is what we are called to do!
The first commandment Jesus mentions, is found in Deuteronomy 6:5 and is followed by this verse “Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home, or away, when you lie down or when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
In other words, make the way of love, your way of life each day!
The word for love here is agape in Greek, which means a sacrificial love, like the one of Christ who died for us and in giving himself totally for others.
So how do we live out this faith challenge? How do we live as the Thessalonians did so that we can be seen as examples of love in the city of Hamilton, the province of Ontario and the country of Canada?
We see great examples in the readings today. In the first reading from Exodus, we are told to take care of those that have a hard time taking care of themselves, that are weak and need support.
The people are told, and we are told, do not take advantage of one who is weak, and may not able to speak for themselves, and ones who are in need. These are the newcomers to our city, the ones who may not speak English, the ones that are trying to find their way, just as our parents and grandparents did in previous generations.
We are to support the widows, the poor, and the homeless, advocating for them and volunteering in order to make the journey easier.
When God asks us to love him with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength; it means
to think of Him first. It doesn’t mean we have to say 300 rosaries, 20 novenas or read the entire bible, though there is nothing wrong with that if we do.
But it does mean to reach out to Him each morning for 1-2 minutes and ask Him to be
with us and help us in our daily struggle. It does mean for us to lean to the side of mercy and forgiveness and love, rather than gossip, or judgement of another.
It does mean that we are called upon in the psalm we sang, to give thanks, that God has been at our side to help us on the journey and allow us to respond to the needs of our neighbours.
St. Catherine of Siena said that “Love transforms one into what one loves.”, or in other words, the more we love, the more we become Christ-like. The more Christ-like we become, the more we can love! And if we can allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives, then maybe, just maybe, we will be seen as a Thessalonians!