Our situation is somewhat similar to that faced by those for whom 2 Thessalonians was intended, and we are mindful of those Christians throughout the world (e.g. in the Middle East and Southeast Asia) who are suffering for their faith in Jesus, as well as those who are the victims of violence and natural disasters, most recently the victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. We also think of the debates concerning religious liberty here in the United States.
Although it might not be immediately apparent, our union with those who are suffering is at the heart of the Church’s belief in the communion of saints. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church observes, “In the sanctorum communio, ‘None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself’ (Romans 14:7). ‘If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it’ (1 Corinthians 12:26-27)… In this solidarity with all humanity, living or dead, which is founded on the communion of saints, the least of our acts done in charity redounds to the profit of all” (¶953).
In the passage from the Second Letter to the Thessalonians proclaimed on this Sunday, we are reminded that, while the invitation to discipleship is itself a gift from God, the work of discipleship is ours: “We are confident of you in the Lord that what we instruct you, you are doing and will continue to do” (2 Thess. 3:4). The emphasis here is on action as an expression of belief and this Letter more broadly reminds us that to live our faith now, in the present, is to live for the future. By saying this, I don’t only mean looking towards the eschaton, the time of Christ’s return in glory, but it is living in such a way that those around us might have a future, as well. Environmental stewardship, working for justice, securing the rights of the poor and the marginalized, caring for the mentally ill, and providing comfort and encouragement to the victims of violence and discrimination are only a few examples of how we can put into practice the faith which has been handed on to us and live as the saints we are called to be.
A Prayer for the Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time +O God, who founded all the commands of your sacred Law
upon love of you and of our neighbor,
grant that, by keeping your precepts,
we may merit to attain eternal life.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal)