of Creighton University's Online Ministries
August 22nd, 2011
School of Law
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The first reading today contains what has been called the Gospel to the Gentiles. The apostle Paul established the church in Thessalonica and wrote several letters to them to encourage them in their faith. We have a fairly good idea of how the early Christian evangelists preached the good news to their fellow Jews but how did they reach out to Gentiles, people who did not know the law of Moses and who worshipped idols? In this first reading Paul gives thanks for these Christian believers who live lives of faith, love, and hope. Their conversion must have been quite dramatic because their faith keeps going forth and is being talked about throughout the Christian communities. How did Paul bring them from idolatry to faith in Jesus Christ? He preached that there is one God who is living and true as opposed to idols that are dead and false. He proclaimed that Jesus is the Son of God. This included the message of his atoning death and resurrection. He preached that Jesus is in heaven and that we should watch and wait for him. Finally, he taught that wrath is coming but that Jesus delivers us from it. This seems fairly simple and most of us probably take all of this for granted but it turned the people who received the message away from idols and toward the living God. In a world of bondage, fear, and hatred, Paul preached deliverance through Jesus Christ. Is the need in our world today really that different from what it was then?
Yet, deliverance from the wrath of God is hardly the message that many want to hear today. We grew up with a tyrant God sitting on his throne and delighting in the opportunity to crush us when we sinned. We gave that God up for Lent! The beauty of the Scriptures and of our Catholic lectionary is that a passage on deliverance from the wrath of God has as its response: The Lord takes delight in his people. Does God want us to experience his wrath? No, the Lord loves his people and adorns the lowly with victory. The people who embrace this truth become a people of praise, gladness, rejoicing, exultation, joy, high praises, and glory.
The Gospel reading for today reminds us that the most religious among us can be the ones most in need of deliverance. Instead of leading others to Jesus, I want people who will follow me. I want them to be like me. I want them to value what I value and love what I love. Instead of delivering people from bondage, I deliver them to a new form of bondage, a religious bondage. I help others to think that they are free when they are only deluded by a new type of chains. Paul pointed people to Jesus. The Queen of Heaven points people to the King. We are called to share the faith, hope, and love that we have in Jesus. This frees people. This delivers from the wrath to come.
The Lord takes delight in his people.
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