Paul finishes off his letter with a positive note, knowing the trials the Thessalonians will have to endure. In a positive way, he leads them into keeping vigilant. He makes the comparison between those who are asleep to those who are awake. Those who are asleep are those who are in sin, thinking that their accounting of actions is still far off. But they have suffered much and are very aware that life could be cut short or be greatly affected in a negative way. This chapter is very applicable to us today. We see, the signs of the times (Lk 29-31) in our recent world events and calamities. We ought to know that our judgement could be very close at hand. We need to be awake and make sure we do not flounder around in the way we live for Christ. We have more need of urgency in our faith than the Thessalonians did back then. We need to be awake for Christ, not just woke for failing politics. We need to fear God who can send us into the fiery Gehenna than those who can only kill the body (Mt 10:28).
The first thing we need to do is build each other up (v11). Paul is making clear that we are to be a blessing to each other in times of trial. We are in times of trial now. Now is the time to forgive one another and love one another. Now, more than ever, we need to be that family of God in the parish community life. Paul’s letter here gives another window into his understanding of community life as a parish. Paul talks about those “whose task it is exercise authority in the Lord to admonish you” to “esteem them with the greatest love” (v12-13). He does not say apostles, but he is referring to those whom they have sent and given that task. These are the priests and bishops. They are to consider them in terms of love and devotion. The task of priests and bishops are themselves to be of love and devotion for the people in the admonishment they give. Again, it is a familial understanding of what the church is.
Paul gives great advice as if he is thinking as a father with his children; “admonish the unruly, cheer the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient toward all” (v14). Paul agrees that Jesus intended for the faithful are to help one another and love one another (Jn 13:34-35). The task of the Catholic in the pew is to be a part of a support network for each other. This is to be acted out within a parish community as well as outside of a parish community. That is why we support the Madonna Renewal center as well as the missionaries. When we give to either, we are participating and making real our call to be a blessing for others. Everything we do as Catholics are meant for this task, whether it be giving in the collection basket or calling a fellow parishioner to cheer them up. Paul gives great advice as to how we can do this for each other as a community.
Paul concludes the letter with a blessing and instruction. He wants this letter read for the whole community to hear. He is trying to give them hope in a difficult time and wants to make sure they get it. He also wants to make sure they keep loving one another in hope. Without that hope, how can we continue to give of ourselves? As Catholics, we understand to idea of dying to ourselves, in our own will and sacrificing our will in preference to God’s will. That is what the Lenten season is all about. In the sacrifices we make daily, our brothers and sisters are given that opportunity to hope in God. All this comes about by the way we love one another as Catholics. What a blessing!