Memorial of Saint Monica
2 Thessalonians 3:6-10, 16-18
The People of God Need to Be Comforted
Today’s readings appear rather abrasive – even for those who adhere strictly to the law. St. Paul tells us to "shun those who walk in a disorderly way," and Jesus addresses the scribes and Pharisees as "hypocrites and whitewashed tombs", full of dead bones and filth! As usual, we are invited deeper into the context and meaning of God’s Word, and perhaps today’s remembrance of St. Monica might assist us as well.
In the first reading, St. Paul confidently offers himself as a model to be imitated. Perhaps he is forgetting that he was willing, not only to die, but to kill in the name of his religion only a few years before (Acts 7:58, 9:2-3)! Certitudes, even in faith, should not be our goal.
St. Monica might also serve as a model. For many years, she tried to live with integrity, to be an example for her violent husband and wayward and rebellious son. She shows us how to deal with people who do not live up to our expectations. She prayed. She was patient. She was non-judgmental. She was strong.
Or consider Pope Francis. His message to the Jesuits in Korea continues a familiar theme:
"The people of God need consolation, they need to be comforted, "consuelo" (the Spanish word for "comfort"). I see the Church as a field hospital right now. The people of God are asking us for consolation. There are so many wounds that need comforting … We need to listen to the words of Isaiah: "Comfort, comfort my people!" There are no wounds that cannot be consoled with God’s love. This is how we should live: searching for Jesus Christ so that this love brings comfort to people’s wounds and heals them."
He said we are ministers of consolation that sometimes the Church goes through a tough time, sometimes it experiences wounds and sometimes the ministers of the Church are responsible for people’s wounds. And he spoke of the Church as a "field hospital", an image he used in the interview. He reiterated it, setting it in stone. This is his vision of the Church.
So, today’s readings must not be heard apart from the full body of Sacred Scripture… Paul telling the Church at Rome (chapter 8, verses 31-39) that nothing can separate us from God’s love. Nothing. Or Jesus telling us, his disciples, to come to him, we who are weary, because he is meek, and humble of heart and in him we will find comfort and rest.
Fr. Jack Conley, C.P. is the director of the Office of Mission Effectiveness. He is a member of the Passionist formation community at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.