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Third Sunday of Advent – Cycle A

13 December 2014

Reflecting on I Thessalonians 5:16-24

Test everything. Retain what is good.

Paul’s advice to the church at Thessalonica sounds so easy, but how do you really know how to test the counsel that you receive, and keep what is good?  How, for that matter, does an intelligent person read the paper, watch the news, or vote in an election? Is it possible to see through the spin and discern who, if anyone, is telling the truth?

St. Paul is guiding the infant church in Thessalonica, the second largest city in Greece, in the ways to live their lives now that they have put on Christ. Since Paul’s letters precede any of the gospels―and since this is, in fact, his earliest letter, written less than twenty years after the resurrection― their questions take on even more urgency.  How DO they live their new lives in Christ? How DO they become mature and faithful disciples of Jesus?

There are no gospels, no Catechism of the Catholic Church, not even any other Pauline letters circulating around to give guidance to this early Christian community.  They are dependent upon what they learned from Paul himself when he visited two years earlier and founded the church there. They are a newborn creation, but how, then, should they live?

Huh. Somehow, modern Christians can’t figure that out either. We feel guilty no matter which way we vote. We feel certain that God is calling us to this job, this house, this friendship, and then things change and we’re not so sure.

St. Paul’s words give us guidance. Do not quench the Spirit. Refrain from every kind of evil. And surely John the Baptist would add, Prepare the way of the Lord.

How is Advent going for you so far?

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I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

Advent - Cycle A

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