Readings (Year A):
Reflection: In times of adversity, hold onto hope
Calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ (1Thess 1:3).
Pedro and his family are living through the political and civil unrest raging in his native country of Nicaragua, plus the persecution, arrest, and expulsion of religious leaders. They find it increasingly difficult to express their faith and participate in his parish’s outreach program because of the crackdown on civil and religious expressions. Pedro knows he is not alone in this state of fear that has overwhelmed his country, crippling their social and religious lives. In spite of this fear and uneasiness, most Nicaraguans including Pedro, know that faith in God and their community remain sources of strength and hope for freedom, peace, and harmony for their nation.
In today’s second reading, St. Paul writes to the Christian community in Thessaloniki, which is facing persecution, and exhorts them on their Christian life in times of uncertainty. Paul reminds them of the love of God that binds them in a relationship with the divine, because of their divine calling and adoption as God’s children. Paul finds evidence of their divine relationship in the extraordinary work of the Holy Spirit in their lives when they first heard the gospel and opened their hearts to the message of God’s grace.
Whenever we experience a situation that challenges our faith, making it difficult to practice the values of our Christian life, we are united with believers everywhere who are unable to express their faith because of fear, intimidation, and danger. Facing the challenge of practicing our faith in a world torn by division and acrimony, St. Paul exhorts us to hold firmly to our experiences of divine election in a profound union with God, in whom we have received our identity as adopted children, and the strength to work for peace. This identity strengthens our faith in Christ, and our conviction of what God is doing in the world through us. In fact, this conviction helps steady our resolve to hold firmly to our union with God, especially in times of adversity that challenge our freedom to express our faith in Christ.
In times of adversity, therefore, our “work of faith” reveals our commitment to God’s outpouring of love and grace, as manifested in Christ’s death and the gift of the Spirit, together with our conviction that if God is for us, nothing can be against us. Based on this conviction, we ought to share with our broken world the same love with which God loved them.
When Paul says we are saved by hope as the reward for our fidelity to God and love of one another, it is a reminder that endurance in hope carries us through the challenges of life, especially through events that threaten our trust in God and humanity, and our desire to express the gospel’s mandate to love our neighbor. Hope in God fills reminds us that undesirable circumstances cannot undermine divine grace. Therefore, let our enduring hope, our steadfast faith, and service of love assure us that we cannot be broken down by difficult circumstances, because we live in hope of God’s promises that will never fail.