33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Fr. Simham)
Go on working and eating your food
In the second reading today, St. Paul writing to Thessalonians says, “we gave you a rule when we were with you: not to let anyone have any food if he refuses to do any work. Now we hear that there are some of you who are living in idleness doing no work themselves but interfering with everyone else’s.”
Now, what was the problem that Paul was addressing in Thessalonian community and why were some people refusing to do any work? It was something like this. I don’t know how many of you still remember what happened in June 1979. The world waited for an unprecedented event to happen: It was the fiery fall of the largest machine man has ever hurled into space. The American Sky lab vehicle, nine stories tall and weighing 77.5 tons, was expected to slip into the earth’s upper atmosphere, then disintegrate into a celestial shower of flaming metal and fall on earth like rain of fire. But no one knew where it was going to fall. I don’t know how the people reacted here in in Aberdeen, but I remember as a schoolboy how in our village everything was shut down; our school was closed, and my sisters who were studying in a hostel were sent home. And all the people stopped working and they started to cut the chicken and the lambs they were rearing and having parties every day almost for three days. They said we don’t know when it is going to fall, let us eat and enjoy before we die. Why to work and save? We are going to die if it falls in our village.
Similar attitude was prevailing in the Church of Thessalonica which made Paul to write this letter. Believers of Thessalonica like any other early Christians believed in ‘imminent Parousia.’ The Greek word parousia means “presence” or “arrival.” In the ancient Greek-speaking world, it was used to describe the ceremonial visit of a ruler or the apparition of a god. In the Early church it is used to refer to the appearance or coming of the glorified Christ at the close of salvation history. In dramatic fashion, it expresses faith in a final act of God that will mark the goal of human history. This act will be the establishment, in its fullness, of the kingdom of God. And this is also known as the Second Coming of Christ.
The earliest Christians expected this consummation to happen in their own time. And because He is going to come soon and everything is going to end, they like the people of my village thought, why to work and it is a waste, let us relax, pray and prepare. And these people, who thought like that, also went around discouraging people who were working, saying it was a waste of time. It is to people such as these, St. Paul was writing and telling them, “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ we order and call people of these kind to go on quietly working and earning the food they eat.” Your waiting for Christ should in no way hamper your responsibility to work. Your waiting for the Lord should not put you off from your responsibility to your family and the society. Jesus will come when He comes. But you should continue to live your daily life.
I remember the Story of St. Dominic Savio, a young boy in St. John Bosco’s oratory as he was playing football he was asked, what will you do if you come to know that you are going to die in an hour? You know what was his answer? He said, ‘I’ll continue playing.” It was this type of attitude St. Paul was recommending for his people in the church at Thessalonica. Christ may come today or tomorrow or day after tomorrow, but your duty is to go on living and exercising your responsibility towards your family and society. Heaven is not for lazy people. Heaven is for those who are willing to work, to put their heart and soul into what they are doing.
Our God is one who works. And he wants his children to be working and fulfilling the mission for which He has sent them into the world. That is the lesson for us today. Always have a look around, looking for the signs of his coming, be prepared for it but at the same time do not neglect your day to day responsibilities here on earth. Amen.
Fr. Showreelu Simham