A reading from the Second Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians
“May the Lord encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word.
Brothers and sisters:
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father,
who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement
and good hope through his grace,
encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed
Finally, brothers and sisters, pray for us,
so that the word of the Lord may speed forward and be glorified,
as it did among you,
and that we may be delivered from perverse and wicked people,
for not all have faith.
But the Lord is faithful;
he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.
We are confident of you in the Lord that what we instruct you,
you are doing and will continue to do.
May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God
and to the endurance of Christ.”
-2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5
As I write these words, I am preparing to be with my cousin for a couple days before I return home to attend a convocation for priests. Our focus will be on the Gospel of Matthew, which will be shared over the course of Ordinary Time next year. I am filled with so many mixed emotions as I couple my concern for my cousin with the tragic loss of Fr. Thomas Connery, along with the aftermath of our All Souls Liturgy. I cannot tell you how overwhelmed I feel each year to join with those who have lost loved ones and to revisit emotionally and spiritually the funeral services at which I often presided. I thank everyone who planned and participated in this liturgy, which was so poignant.
Recently, I have felt betrayed by someone who I considered a friend. (It is no one connected to our parishes or to my priestly ministry.) I have felt this person slip away and return to addictive behaviors and intentionally live counter to the special person I always assumed them to be. There is almost a delight among the person to disappoint me, and I realize that I am powerless to be of help in their life.
I write these personal words because I know that I am not alone. Many of us have felt the same way, and it is to people like us that St. Paul addresses his words. He reminds a community, and now our community, that Christ never abandons us even if others appear to do so. Christ fortifies us to withstand the heartbreaks of this world with the healing power of Christ’s salvific love. In light of Jesus’s compassion and grace, we can remain confident of God’s faithfulness even when others betray us.
In the book of Maccabees, the powerful story of the brothers who endured the flames rather than succumbing to corruption stirs in us an awareness that the power to overcome evil in this world calls upon us to respond with steadfast love. I am reminded of the hymn “Be Not Afraid,” which has brought comfort to generations who have mourned losses:
“If you pass through raging waters in the sea, you shall not drown.
If you walk amid the burning flames, you shall not be harmed.
If you stand before the pow'r of hell and death is at your side,
know that I am with you through it all.
Be not afraid.I go before you always.
Come follow me,
and I will give you rest.”
May all of you find some time this week to rest in the Lord and let go of the troubles of this world, knowing that God will make all things new.
God bless you, -Fr. George
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