30 November 2003›› First Sunday of Advent ©››› 1 Thess 3:12-4:2
St. PatrickŪs parish is in Kowloon, Hong Kong.› There are four weekend Masses including a childrenŪs Mass at 10:45, Sunday.› This is the parish where I was formerly pastor. [email protected].› Cf. also Social Concerns Education: www.acpp.org --›› Fr. Gene Thalman M.M.]
››››››››››› Today is the first Sunday of Advent.› During these next four Sundays St. Paul will be writing letters to our community so that we will be prepared to celebrate ChristŪs coming this Christmas, 2003.
Nowadays very few of us write letters. Instead we telephone or e-mail our loved ones. Yet we all feel a special excitement when we receive a personal letter from a dear friend.›
››››››››››› In a movie I once saw, there was an elderly man who lived alone and didnŪt have any relatives or friends.› But once a week, the postman delivered a letter to his mailbox.› The old man would open his mailbox, look surprised, smile and take the letter into his house.› Later the townspeople discovered that each week he went to the postbox in town and mailed a letter to himself.
››››››››››› How many of you have never received a love letter?› Raise your hand.› Well today is your lucky day.
››››››››››› As Christians, we always have a letter in our mailbox.› These letters are written by Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.› Among PaulŪs writings there are some very personal love letters. Our reading today is truly a love letter. Paul writes this love letter to the Thessalonian Christians but he also is sending this letter to our community here at St. PatrickŪs.› That is what the Holy Spirit makes happen when we read the Holy Scripture.
››››››››››› You see,› in 50 C.E., about twenty years after ChristŪs Ascension, Paul visited Thessalonia.› He didnŪt know any people there so he set up a little roadside stand, started repairing and making tents to earn a little money.› Paul was a tent-maker by trade. He made quality tents.› Paul was a friendly fellow and quickly made friends with other workers in the neighborhood.› Of course he told them about Jesus and the kind of things that Jesus continues to do.› Paul also went to the Jewish synagogue each Sabbath.› In a short time, Paul had a little group of Christians who gathered together regularly to learn about Jesus.› Most of these folks were not Jewish.› Well, Paul was only there for about six months and already he had a small thriving community. Things were going great!› Until÷
››››››››››› The Jewish leaders in the synagogue got jealous and started to report Paul to the Roman government and accused him of being a threat to national security.› To save the little Christian community from persecution, Paul had to leave this little community.› But the Christians promised to keep following Jesus.
››››››››››› Paul› was very sad to leave.› He really got to love these folks.› And like a mother, he was worried about them.› He was afraid they might forget some of the important things that he had taught.› After all he had only been with them for a short time.› He knew it could be very difficult for them to keep being disciples of Christ.
GODŪS WORD:› Two months after leaving, Paul wrote todayŪs beautiful letter to these Christians.› We have just listened to four verses from this letter to the Thessalonians.
I Thess: 3:12-13 and 4:1-2
3:12 žAnd may the Lord increase you and make you overflow with love for one another÷Ó
Paul sounds like a worried mother.› Such a mother is most happy when her children are not only growing up in age and wisdom, she doesnŪt want her kids to quarrel. Rather she wants them live in harmony and to love each other more and more. žOverflow with love. Ó
›žand for all÷,
›Of course, all parents want their children to love each other but Paul adds: žand for all÷Ó The Christians of Thessalonia not only must love their family members and good friends but Paul also insists that they love everybody -- even their enemies, people who are pains in the neck and people who are just plain nasty.
ževen as our love does for you.Ó ›
After Mass I sometimes ask a little child:› žDo you love your mommy?Ó› Or žDo you love your daddy?Ó›› And nine times out of ten, the child, after giving it some thought, will answer: žYes, I love mommy.Ó› Or žYes, I love daddy.Ó And the parent smiles from ear to ear. However, an adult seldom tells another: žI love you.Ó
Let me ask the married women a question: žWhen was the last time your husband said: ŽI love you?ŪÓ› Please answer by smiling. Within the past year? ÷ Within the past two years?÷Within the past five years÷within the past ten years÷never?› Ugh!›
I guess that some people have been married for forty years and have never once spoken those words: žI love you.Ó› It is kind of embarrassing for an adult to tell someone that you love him/her.› I think it goes against Chinese culture.› It may be easier to say žI love youÓ in a letter.
It must have been the same at the time of St. Paul.› However Paul isnŪt uncomfortable saying how much he loves this little community in his letter.
3:13› žMay he strengthen your hearts, make them blameless and holy before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones.Ó
Like a mother who tells her kids to wash behind their ears and wear two of the same color socks when the grandparents come to visit, Paul is concerned that this little community will be spic and span when the Lord comes in glory. ž÷at the coming of our Lord Jesus...Ó He wants to show off this great little community.› (Just as Fr. Moses, Sr. Lam, and the catechists will want to show you off when Jesus comes in glory.)
4:1› žNow, my brother [and sisters], we beg and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that, even as you learned from us how to conduct yourselves in a way pleasing to Godůwhich you are indeed doingůso you must learn to make still greater progress.Ó
››››››››››› The best way to prevent backsliding is to keep going forward.› ItŪs like roller-skating up a hill. Once you stop skating uphill, you roll back down.› The only way is to keep progressing up the hill.
››››››››››› If any of us have stopped growing and advancing in our Faith and in our love for God, we should think about it on this first Sunday of Advent.› We certainly want to be ready when Jesus comes.
FINALE:› Please raise your hand if you
Have a Bible at home?
Have opened the Bible during the past month?
Will open your Bible this week and read something lovely that God may want to tell you?
30 November 2003›› First Sunday of Advent ©
TWO WORDS:› Thessalonian letter
THEME:› PaulŪs epistle to the Thessalonians is written for St. PatrickŪs community, Wang Tau Hom.
TEXT:››››› žYou know the instructions we gave you in the Lord Jesus.Ó›
›››››››››››››››››››› I Thessalonians› 4:2.
DESIRED RESULT: ›Father, last week you excited my interest in PaulŪs epistles. I never imagined that somebody would ever write me a love letter.›
žHis [PaulŪs] primary purpose is to encourage this group of new Christians [in Thessaloniaůmodern day Salonika] who are living out their faith in the hostile climate of a large Hellenistic city and suffering persecution from their fellow citizens because of it (1:6; 3:3-4) and who are experiencing stress within the community, possibly because of moral failings (4:3-8) and certainly because of wrong ideas about the future coming of the Lord (4:13-5:11).
George M. Soares-Prabhu, žI Thessalonians, in The International Bible Commentary, ed. by William R. Farmer (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1998), p. 1710.
30 November 2003›› First Sunday of Advent © 1 Thess. 3:12-4:2
1. What is the first letter in the Bible that St. Paul wrote? _____________
2.› In what year was this letter written? ___________________________
3.› Give three reasons why St. Paul was concerned about the Christian
›››› community in Thessalonia?
›››› a. _________________________________________
›››› b. _________________________________________
›››› c. _________________________________________
4. Who were the two groups of people that Paul wanted the Christians to
››››› a.› ________________________
››››› b.› ________________________
5. (Optional) Tell about a special letter that you once received.› How did
››› you feel when you read the letter?› How did the letter affect your life?›››
››› How do you feel when you read a love letter to you from God?
››››››››››› DonŪt Peek!