1 Thess. 1:2-10; Mt. 13:31-35
epistle today is a shining page in sacred Scripture. It is the first page of the New
Testament. St. Paul wrote his first
letter to the Thessalonians in 51. The
first gospel, of Mark, was written in 64.
In the few words, the epistle today has everything. St. Paul commended the Thessalonians on their
faith, hope, and charity. They turned
from idols to the one true God, so we have monotheism. Their hope is in the Lord, who was crucified
and raised up, so there is Christology, and even persecution. St. Paul had to flee Thessalonika because of
opposition by the synagogue. He commends
the Thessalonians for their patient endurance as they persevere in tribulation.
took to the preaching of St. Paul right away.
So much so, that St. Paul says they received the message not only in
word, but in power, and in the Holy Spirit.
The word for power in the Latin is virtute, which means vigor. In the original Greek, it is dynamis, that
is, activity. The activity of the Holy
Spirit. The message, the gospel, is a
divine activity, and it is the same for all God’s grace. We tend to quantify grace, to think of it as
some thing, in the best sense of the word.
But what these readings would want us to know is that His grace is an
activity, a divine activity, an activity of God to transform and give life.
And so, this
epistle is paired with this gospel, the parables of the kingdom of heaven,
which illustrate this meaning. In the
first parable, the mustard seed is planted.
It is the smallest seed, and yet grows to the greatest tree. Out of small beginnings, something great
occurs. This is the proclamation of the
Gospel. It is the Church. St. Augustine says the branches are the
doctrines, and the birds are all of us, the faithful, who find a dwelling in
the household of God.
The farmer is a
man of faith. He plants the seed, he
works hard at it, and he does not see anything happen for a long time. But he knows that something powerful and
mysterious is happening beneath the surface, by a power not his own. It has a power of its own, a living power, an
activity, which transforms and gives life.
Although he does not see it, no one can convince him differently. The farmer is a man of faith.
The same is true
of the woman who mixes yeast into the dough.
She is the Church through which we receive sanctifying grace, with a
power of its own. The three loaves, the
Jews, the gentiles, and all the world, are combined into one and rise, a
portent of the resurrection, through the Church. All the grace that God gives us is this
divine activity, a power not our own, transforming and giving life.
gives us two aspects. The Thessalonians
received the message right away. It
entered into their lives, and transformed them into believers. And secondly, it went out from them. St. Paul had to flee Thessalonika. What a consolation they must have been to
them, as he heard everywhere he went how quickly they accepted the message, so
much so that St. Paul says he had to say nothing. The grace of God touches our lives, and, by
our word and the way we live our lives, the world around us, with the divine
activity, a power not our own, and like the seed planted and the yeast which
enters the dough, gives rise to the kingdom of heaven.