Love and Endurance

November 10, 2019

In our second reading this weekend, in the Letter of Paul to the people of Thessalonica, he encourages the followers to open up their hearts to the love of God and the endurance of Christ.  This invitation led me to reflect deeply on what this is all about and where it is to lead us.  Christ our Hope invites us to missionary discipleship, as does Bishop Conlon’s pastoral letter, and it seems that in these times reflecting on the second reading can offer us direction.  For me, not only did the words love and endurance capture my attention, but the source we are to look at brings us to new directions and awareness.  First may our hearts be open to the love of God and then we are redirected to the endurance of Christ.  To be a follower we need to know we are called and we need to know the difficulty of that call.  Jesus as the Son of God was called to proclaim the perfect love of the Father to the world and promise the Holy Spirit.  As He did this, He was thrown out of towns and synagogues, persecuted by the establishment and surrendered His very life for the penalty of our sins.  That is endurance.  That is being true to a call at all costs.

The love of God is tender and merciful and this love, when experienced, changes everything.  Yet the living of that life brings on the dynamic tension that will ask us to go deeper to endure what is placed before us.  This journey is not easy.  To be a missionary disciple and a follower of Jesus is not easy in our world and in these times.  Praising God while standing up for what is truthful and correct is not encouraged.  As I look at this invitation of the Lord, I think about Jesus going to the desert for 40 days.  His endurance came from a depth and wellspring that would not stop.  He persevered and endured not only temptation of the devil, but also the persecution of the world that did not accept Him.

Endurance is an important word for me.  I reflect on it often.  At times I am amazed at the endurance of my body in the past that allowed me to cross the finish line of a marathon when lately I don’t seem to be motivated to run even 6 miles.  Where did I get this endurance?  It came from a desire, a dream, it came from a place deep within wanting to test myself.  When I ran my first marathon, I did not even tell my family.  I was afraid if I didn’t finish, I would never hear the end of it.  Afterwards when I finally told them, they still didn’t believe me. The cost of training and the sacrifice of running mile after mile by myself gave me an inner strength.  That will to finish has propelled me to cross the finish lines of each of the marathons I have started.  Endurance comes from within and St. Paul invites us to look at spiritual endurance and find it in the ways Jesus did.

St. Paul also invites us to look at the power of God’s love.  Everything we do is to give God glory.  Everything we do is to reflect the goodness of a love that cannot be stopped because it is divine and comes from God.  The starting point must always be God.  We belong to Him, but most profoundly He belongs to us.  He is the God who longs to walk with us, throw His arms of love around us, a love that can handle our pain and anger, our hurt and disappointment.  This love is the love of a God of covenant and partnership.  He called Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and now He calls us to be the people of His own possession.  Those are powerful words that come from our preface in the Eucharistic Prayer.  We are so strongly loved, we are a possession of the God of creation, powerful and mighty.  Paul goes on to say that nothing can separate us from the love of God.  So these two remain as we answer the call, love and endurance.

May our hearts be directed to the love of God and the endurance of Christ.

Reverend  John J. Ouper