St. Paul and the Thessalonians

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

Today we shift from Hebrew prophets to Christian missionary activity in the first reading. We will read from St. Paul's second letter to the Thessalonians today as well as Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. The letter is brief and to the point and was occasioned by a misconception that may have developed because of St. Paul's first letter to this community.

You may recall that I have written before that St. Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians is the oldest book of the Christian Scriptures. If the books appeared in chronological order, 1st Thessalonians would appear first instead of the Gospel of St. Matthew. Careful reading of that letter shows that it was written at a time when the Christian community believed that Jesus' return was imminent. St. Paul himself writes in that vein, urging the followers of Jesus to be vigilant lest the Parousia surpises. As a result, the community of Thessalonika was putting off major plans and projects, neglecting some things that were crucial for the community's survival. Why start something that would never be finished? Why invest time, energy and money in caring for the poor, supporting the widow and orphan, if Jesus was returning soon? This kind of attitude is actually operative among some Christians today.

Once St. Paul began to see that his earlier convictions concerning the Second Coming were unfounded, his writings begin to show evidence of the change in his thinking. I side by side comparison between 1st and 2nd Corinthians will reveal that St. Paul's purpose in writing again was to clear up misconceptions regarding the "day of the Lord."

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