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In our readings we see the pictures of three communities or kinds of believers.
The first one has lost its trust in the transforming power of the Spirit of witness. The nobles of Judea flee to Egypt, which in turn will not be able to defend itself against the coming invasion of the Chaldeans. Many times the Prophet Isaiah was asking his people to stay but they would not listen. But if men do not listen to the voice of the Spirit, the prophecy, it means that they are refusing their vocation; and refusal of vocation is nothing else than disbelief.
An other kind denounces St. Luke: the one who defines himself out of comparison: a proud and arrogant believer, to whom we have to grant that he is going great length to please God. However he is doing it not out of himself but he is comparing himself with the other, the "lesser" in his viewpoint. It is the same kind of jalousie that prompts Cain to slaughter Abel. This fellow here is looking at his offerings of worship and sees them more dignified than that of his fellow worshipper. His attention is with himself and with the world around him and not with God. Moreover he sees himself worthier than his brother. Wouldn't it be easy to enrage this man if someone would criticize him? How easy he would kill for his absolutized "truth", his "right" way?
St. Luke in the following and St. Paul are proposing an other way of worship. First of all it is a worship in humility. The community of Thessaloniki is seeking the experience of the Church of Judea. There is no competition. Only humble ordering the proper live as the "Saints" the elders - of the holy land - did in their spiritual experience. Thus they become the pride of St. Paul, their master. In a way the good disciple becomes the intercessor for the master and we see this very clearly when St. Paul says, that they are his hope. Which means: that they, through their conduct, become the intercessors and testimonies for the conduct of the Apostles and their teaching.
The community of Thessaloniki is a community of martyrs and confessors which indicates the other important element of the proposal of the evangelist and the apostle: the witness. This, the tax-collector, what has he to endure to worship? Surely our proud Jew is not the only one who is looking at him in distaste. Still, he is going to pray, knowing exactly his hopeless state, and knowing his only hope is the proper transformation, which, he knows, is impossible for men, but for God nothing is impossible.
Woe to the rebellious children -- declares Yahweh -- who make plans which do not come from me and make alliances not inspired by me, and so add sin to sin!
2 They are leaving for Egypt, without consulting me, to take refuge in Pharaoh's protection, to shelter in Egypt's shadow.
3 Pharaoh's protection will be your shame, the shelter of Egypt's shadow your confounding.
4 For his princes have gone to Zoan and his messengers have reached Hanes.
5 Everyone has been disappointed by a people who cannot help, who bring neither aid nor profit, only disappointment and confusion.
6 Proclamation about the beasts of the Negeb: Into the land of distress and of anguish, of lioness and roaring lion, of viper and flying dragon, they bear their riches on donkeys' backs, their treasures on camels' humps, to a nation that cannot help:
(Isa 30:1-6 NJB)
14 For you, my brothers, have modelled yourselves on the churches of God in Christ Jesus which are in Judaea, in that you have suffered the same treatment from your own countrymen as they have had from the Jews,
15 who put the Lord Jesus to death, and the prophets too, and persecuted us also. Their conduct does not please God, and makes them the enemies of the whole human race,
16 because they are hindering us from preaching to gentiles to save them. Thus all the time they are reaching the full extent of their iniquity, but retribution has finally overtaken them.
17 Although we had been deprived of you for only a short time in body but never in affection, brothers, we had an especially strong desire and longing to see you face to face again,
18 and we tried hard to come and visit you; I, Paul, tried more than once, but Satan prevented us.
19 What do you think is our hope and our joy, and what our crown of honour in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes?
20 You are, for you are our pride and joy.
(1Th 2:14-20 NJB)
9 He spoke the following parable to some people who prided themselves on being upright and despised everyone else,
10 'Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector.
11 The Pharisee stood there and said this prayer to himself, "I thank you, God, that I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like everyone else, and particularly that I am not like this tax collector here.
12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all I get."
13 The tax collector stood some distance away, not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast and said, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner."
14 This man, I tell you, went home again justified; the other did not. For everyone who raises himself up will be humbled, but anyone who humbles himself will be raised up.'
(Luk 18:9-14 NJB)