. . . calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope.

What comes to mind when you think about a faith-filled friend or family member?   Maybe it’s the time your friend prayed with you for a wayward child or your grandmother fingered her rosary beads.   You knew their love and faith, not in the abstract, but in the doing, in the concrete tasks of daily life.   This is how Paul remembers the Thessalonians in today’s first reading (1 Thessalonians 1:3) too:   through their deeds.

We tend to think of Paul as heroic and larger-than-life, but here he seems tender, even humble.   Something about the way the Thessalonians embraced the gospel touched his heart.   Their faith in Jesus, their love for one another, and their endurance in the midst of suffering encouraged him to keep going with his mission.   Paul knew that they weren’t blameless, but he couldn’t help but focus on the evidence of God’s grace at work in them.

Imagine how the Thessalonians must have felt to read these words.   They were probably well aware of their shortcomings—and so was Paul.   But Paul also wanted them to see what he saw:   God was working in them and through them.   The seeds of the gospel were already growing and bearing fruit in their lives, a few weeds notwithstanding.

We all need help seeing the signs of God’s grace in our lives from time to time.   It’s easy to overlook our growth in faith, hope, and love amid our weaknesses.   But just as Paul helped the Thessalonians, we can help one another by pointing out the evidence that we see in each other.

Where do you see faith, love, and hope in another person?   Can you see it in a friend who prayerfully maintains the family home?   Can you see it in the older couple who care for each other in their declining health?   Can you see it in the single dad who works hard and comes home to his kids without anyone to help him out?   When you do, speak up!   Who knows?   You might lift that person’s spirits and help them see the grace of God in their lives in a new way.

“Lord, open my eyes to see you at work in the people around me.   And open my mouth to encourage them.”

Psalm 149:1-6, 9
Matthew 23:13-22

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