Tuesday, November 12, 2013

From one friend to another

Read II Thessalonians 2:16 to 3:5

As I read last Sunday's excerpt of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, I imagined a man writing a letter to a good friend who was going through a rough time. The two men share the Christian faith, and it is in that context that the first writes the following words to the second.

"My dear friend, I’m so sorry to hear about your problems. I’d give an arm and a leg to be with you, to help and support you. But you know that, even if I can’t be there, the Lord is with you, at your side. Remember, He’s never let you down through any hard times in the past. On the contrary, the Lord has always been a source of hope and comfort for you. I know that, once again, He will give you the courage you need and the wisdom to choose the right words to say, the correct actions to take.

"You know, I’m finding life rather difficult myself, these days. It seems that a lot of obstacles have arisen in my path. I’d love to be able to share with everyone the love and joy God has put in my heart, but not everyone is open to that, as you well know…

 "Yet, I have hope. Sometimes, I stop and think of Jesus and how he endured all the trials of life, even the trial of rejection and torture and death on the cross. He never gave up. He endured to the end. Believe me, my friend, he will help us do the same!

"I know what a good heart you have. I know all your strengths and your abilities. I believe in you. Even more, I believe in the Spirit of Jesus abiding in you. My prayer is that the Lord will lead you closer to him through this time of trial. The Lord can use even obstacles and failures to help us grow in love.

"You know that, in his resurrection, Jesus destroyed the power of death. You know that his victory over evil is complete, even if it doesn’t seem so right now. One day, we will see his glory. Knowing that already gives us patience, courage and strength to endure.

"So, my man, don’t let go! I’ll be with you in my prayer. The Lord will be with you in his love!"

I think that is what Paul was trying to tell the Thessalonians two thousand years ago. And that’s what I want to tell you today, you who know trials and tribulations. Have faith, for God is faithful. The Lord will lead you to life in abundance.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Living in the present moment

Read II Thessalonicians 1:11 to 2:2

"Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again." At each celebration of Mass, the entire congregation proclaims its faith in these words, where past, present and future come together: in the past, Jesus lived, taught, healed, gave his life for us on the cross; in the present, he is risen, reigning in heaven whence he sends the Spirit to abide in our hearts; in the future, he will return in the glory of the Kingdom.

Christians live the present with intensity, for they are deeply involved in it. The memory of Christ’s love commands this involvement, for they seek to follow in his steps and imitate his love. The proclamation of his return energizes this involvement, for they know that, in the end, love will have conquered hatred, life will have triumphed over death. Faith in the past and hope for the future nourish love in the present.

Yet, a problem can arise when we seek refuge in the past, idealize the “good ol’ days”, lose ourselves in dreams and memories. In today’s lesson, Paul invites his readers to commit themselves to action in the present, to activate the grace which has been given to them, to shine with God’s glory in their daily lives.

A second problem can occur when we become entranced with the future, obsessively seeking signs of Christ’s return, sinking in imagination and fantasies. Paul invites the same readers to become neither foolish nor fearful. He invites them to allow their hope to nourish their daily faithfulness, rather than seeking to escape the present moment.

True Christian faith is a faith that is involved in today’s world. Nourished by the living memory of Jesus and by the hope of his glorious return, this faith neither seeks refuge in the past nor escape in the future. It is in the here and now of daily life that Christian faith develops and is expressed. The person I need to love is at my side, near me. The work I must accomplish is right there, before my eyes. The world to be transformed is the world I read about in the daily news.

A volunteer welcomes a pilgrim on the road to Compostella
Temptation awaits us, as it did the Thessalo-nicians. Let us neither regret the past, nor lose our-selves in fantasies about the future. Let us open our eyes on today’s world, the world where the Lord waits for us and journeys with us. 

Nothing is more realist than Christian faith.