“Cease and desist”- Paul’s message to the Thessalonians – Tuesday, 21st Week in ordinary time – 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3a,14-17
Sensational news always gets our ears puckered up. News agencies thrive on breaking news and our fingers suffer from a new compulsive disorder to share the ‘misfortunes’ of others, sensational or tragic, on the world of WhatsApp. So much of this news thrives because there are no dearth of alarmists in the world or for that matter in the church. The text of today is an appeal to those in Paul’s community in Thessalonica, not to be ‘shaken’ by the doomsayers who have been allegedly announcing with precision the clock and calendar coming of the Lord’s Parousia. All this is a distraction from the truth and reality of what God has done, is doing, and will yet do.
Paul is writing to community he is familiar with for he begs his ‘brothers and sisters’ not to pay attention to the alarmist in the community. Paul was addressing the community in Thessalonica which was a port city in Macedonia (modern day Greece). It was founded in 315 BC by Cassander who was a general in Alexander the greats’ army. Cassander had married Alexanders half-sister and named the city after her. The city fell to the Romans and in 146 BC became the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia.
At the time of Paul, this was an important city. It thrived in commercial trade and was strategically and politically important. Located on the via Egnatia which linked Rome to the Balkans, Thessalonica became a cosmopolitan city and being cosmopolitan it had a substantial Jewish community, large enough to support a synagogue.
Paul evangelised this community in about the year 50 AD while on his second missionary journey. St Luke tells us that having fled the persecution in Philippi (Acts 16:16-40) St Paul and his companions found lodging in the house of Jason in Thessalonica and it here that he preached for three weeks. Paul’s success had his Jewish detractors draw their knives, and a riot ensued. Paul and Silvanus were expelled from the city and arrived in Beroea and from there he had to flee to Athens to a rather unsuccessful sojourn in that city. It was from here that he went to Corinth.
Paul desired to visit Thessalonica but because of the hostility against him he sent Timothy (1Thessalonians 2:17-3:3). Acts 18:5 tells us that Timothy joined Paul in Corinth where he brought the good news of the work being done in Corinth. However, there was also a matter of concern and misunderstanding in the matter of faith; in particular about the fate of those who had died. To address this situation Paul wrote immediately the letter we now have in 1Thessalonians. However, while the second letter to the Thessalonians cannot be precisely dated, it took on issues that was vexing the community; the second coming of the Lord or the Parousia as we call it.