In the first reading today, the Prophet Malachi tells of the scorching final act of God’s justice to be cast upon “ the proud and all evildoers”. As Christians, our goal is to avoid membership in this group of punished people. This same idea is echoed in Mary’s Magnificat, “He has shown strength with His arm, he has scattered the proud in the conceit of their hearts.” Applying Spiritual standards of character, pride is a lowly fault. It means a person believes his strength and success are of his own making vs. recognition of God as the source of all good things. “Pride goes before destruction…” (Proverbs 18). Malachi gives us poetic words of comfort, “But you who fear My name, there will rise the sun of justice with its healing rays.” God will reward the humble who love Him above all things.”…whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”( Matt23:12)
Our second reading of Mass today, also refers to the ending of this world. To better understand the second letter of Paul, we must realize Paul is giving a piece of follow-up advice for his beloved Thessalonians. Thessalonica was the second place Paul ministered in his missionary journey when he from Antioch to Greece in about 50AD. He established the community in this important seaport on the Aegean Sea. He felt great ownership of this group because he preached and originated this Christian community himself. He was so happy they were working hard and remaining faith-filled. He tells them, to keep up the good work and praises them for being a positive influence and “model to the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.” In the first letter to these people, Paul stated the return of Jesus to this earth, will take place in the near future. About three months later, Paul received a report that some of the people of Thessalonica believed the end of the world was imminent, so they had stopped working and planning for the future. So, he writes this second letter, read today, and urges the Thessalonians to model his behavior while he was with them— recall that he was industrious and self-supportive. Paul did not act as some religious leaders of this time; he did not seek a patron to financially support him. I’m not sure if Paul continued to make tents, but he did labor to provide for himself, and so was not beholden to anyone. So, Paul writes from Corinth, 355 miles away, to the misguided Thessalonians. He admonishes them to work, mind their own business and eat their own food as safeguards against “disorderly behavior.”
Luke’s Gospel reiterates the theme of God’s justice at the end of this world. Jesus forewarns the people of a myriad of signs that will signal the Second Coming. He tells us before the world ends, there will be frightening events–false prophets will preach, wars will break out, natural disasters and celestial sights and signs will occur, and persecutors will kill His followers! Yikes, right? Quell your fear, and be consoled because Jesus lovingly reassures us, “not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance, you will secure your lives.” So, let us persevere in seeking to know God better, listen to His Word and seek to do His will. Perhaps each day take the steps to listen or read a brief ( one page ) biography of a saint and do as Paul urged, look to these people as role models. Let’s try our best to practice charity at home and everywhere we go. God wants us to be saints, a member of heaven. St. Paul wrote, “This is the will of God: that you be saints.” 1 Thess4:3. The modern writer, Matthew Kelly, states in his book, “Rediscover Catholicism”, “We all need to be reminded holiness is possible. Men and women listening to the voice of God, seeking God’s will, becoming the-best-version-of-themselves—that is holiness.”
We can enter the “pearly gates”! It will take time and effort, but oh, what a worthwhile pursuit.