Brothers and sisters, during all our distress and persecution we have been encouraged about you through your faith. For we now live, if you continue to stand firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.
Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
You turn men back into dust and say:
'Go back, sons of men.'
To your eyes a thousand years
are like yesterday, come and gone,
no more than a watch in the night. (R./)
Make us know the shortness of our life
that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Lord, relent! Is your anger for ever?
Show pity to your servants. (R./)
In the morning, fill us with your love;
we shall exult and rejoice all our days.
Let the favour of the Lord be upon us:
give success to the work of our hands. (R./)
Jesus said to his disciples, "Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.
"Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possession. But if that wicked slave says to himself, 'My master is delayed,' and he begins to beat his fellow slaves, and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know. He will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
The local churches founded by Paul were eager for the glorious second coming of Jesus. The apostle prays, "may he strengthen your hearts; at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints." At the start of the first letter to the Corinthians he prays they will be found blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus. The gospel urges a similar spirit, "Stay awake, for you cannot know the day your Lord is coming."
They were to be alert and prepared, but not to the neglect of normal family duties. When some enthusiasts in the Thessalonian church gave up work altogether, so as to give all their time to prayer and mystical waiting for the Lord, Paul responded briskly, "Anyone who will not work should not eat." And in today's reading he does not ignore current issues just because the Lord's second coming may be imminent. Instead, He prays to see them again and to remedy any shortcomings in their community.
Jesus needs good stewards who will always treat others in the household with love and respect, leaders who eat and drink temperately, and are diligently working for God. Such is "the faithful, far-sighted servant." But neither are they to be activists with no time for contemplation, strategists with no moral principles, manipulators without mercy or concern.
We are asked to judge everything in light of the Lord's return like a thief in the night. Today's texts ask us to be practical and diligent; to be men and women of vision and moral perspective; most of all to be prayerful and personally aware of the presence of our Lord Jesus.
We have become very security conscious. The house alarm is an essential and we must keep doors locked more than in the past. This need for security is a sign of the times, when respect for property is less than it once was. But burglary is not new, as Jesus was very aware. In the first of today's gospel parables he uses the image of the burglar breaking into a house. This was common enough experience then as it is now. He notes the element of surprise used by burglars. The only way for the householder not to be caught napping is for him to stay awake, on the watch. The wide awake householder becomes an image for us, to keep alert to the presence and coming of the Lord.
Jesus is constantly aware of us; we are called to be constantly aware of him. It's hard to be aware of the Lord all the time, because so many other things fill our minds. Yet, that is what he asks of us. We are to constantly reach out to him, in a conscious union. In that sense we are all called to become contemplatives, with a small "c."