(1 Thessalonians 1:1-5b)
Taking a Cue from St. Paul's Letter to the Thessalonians
by Rev. Jack Peterson, Y.A.
Reprinted with the permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
To Sunday Gospel Reflections Index
Matthew wrote to show that Christ
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.
Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: grace to you and peace. We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers, unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father, knowing, brothers and sisters loved by God, how you were chosen. For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.
St. Paul begins his letter to the Thessalonian community praising God and promising prayers for the Christians in that famous city: “We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers, unceasingly, calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He goes on to proclaim that the faithful are loved by God and chosen by him.
Taking my cue from St. Paul today, I lift up my heart in deep gratitude to God for all of you, the countless lay men and women in the Diocese of Arligton, who strive to love God, dedicate yourselves to the works of God and endure in hope during these very difficult times.
As a priest, I am profoundly aware that the church desperately needs you. Together with priests and religious, you are critical to the life of the church and the building of God’s kingdom on this earth. You bring the light, love and truth of Christ to every corner of our world — your families and your places of work as well as the world of sports, law, education, science, medicine, etc. This is your unique vocation.
One of the great documents produced by the Second Vatican Council, “Lumen Gentium,” states: “The laity, by their very vocation, seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God.”
We all know that family life is beautiful, but it can be very challenging at times. Members young and old can get sick or injured or undergo moments of great anxiety. Children can experience disappointments or find certain moments in their development overwhelming. Parents can lose their jobs or get worn down from the burdens of keeping up the house. Young adults can lose their way for a period of time or find the process of discerning their vocation to be enormously difficult. Grandparents can lose a spouse, be forced to move out of the old family home or be subject to the many trials of old age.
As a priest, I am inspired when I see you and your families navigate life’s ups and downs and continue to love one another, remain faithful to prayer, find strength to endure through the blessings of your faith, and reach out to your neighbor in need with kindness and generosity.
It also is inspiring to see lay members of the church shape the world around you by authentically living our faith. This demands that you draw close to God through regular prayer, study the Scriptures and the catechism, allow God to transform your lives and then bring Gospel values into the workplace. This, of course, is best done by the example of your lives, but also by prudently and charitably standing up for Gospel values and bearing witness to Christ.
Furthermore, from among the lay members of the church, many of you have discerned a call for a period of time or sometimes for the whole of your career to use your God-given gifts and talents to directly assist the church in her work of evangelization and service of the faithful. Toward that goal, countless roles are played including teachers, administrators, musicians, accountants, fundraisers, youth and campus ministers, and maintenance staff. Each of you, in your own way, is a critical player in the church’s effort to be faithful to her mission of making disciples of all nations.
Once again, I give thanks to almighty God for the heroic efforts that so many of you in the Diocese of Arlington put forth to live the faith, labor in love and endure in hope. May our blessed Lord fill you with abundant grace, especially through regular participation in the sacraments of the Eucharist and reconciliation, that, together, we may build God’s kingdom of love and truth.