Three Little Verses, Three Big Commands
Today's second reading from St. Paul's First Letter to the Thessalonians packs three big commands into three little verses.
Brothers and sisters:
Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.
In all circumstances give thanks,
for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
These three verses are easy to read. They flow smoothly off the tongue or through the mind. But when we actually try to follow the three commands contained in these verses...well, there we run into some difficulties. Let's begin by taking a look at what God, Who is writing through St. Paul, requires of us.
1. Rejoice always. – The Greek word for “rejoice” here is chairō. It is a verb that can mean “to be delighted or pleased”; “to be glad”; “to rejoice”. Here we find it in its imperative form; it is a direct command. Are we to be joyful only when we feel like it? Only when we are happy and everything is going well? Nope. We are to rejoice, to be glad, always, constantly, at all times.
2. Pray without ceasing. – We are to be in contact with God constantly. The Greek word for “without ceasing” is adialeiptōs, which also means “without intermission” and “incessantly” or “assiduously.” In other words, we're not to pray only when we need something or when times are tough. We are to communicate with God continually and devoutly.
3. In all circumstances, give thanks... – Everywhere and at all times, we are to give thanks to God. He gives us all we have and all we are. The least we can do is give Him thanks. The Greek word for “give thanks” is eucharisteō. Look familiar?
How are we to obey these commands? How are we to be joyful when we feel sad, pray when we are busy, or give thanks when everything seems to be going wrong?
Perhaps our first step toward obeying these commands is to realize that we can't do so on our own. We need God's help. We need to ask God to remind us everyday of the many reasons we have to rejoice, especially during the Advent and Christmas seasons when we celebrate the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, Who came to save us from our sins and open the way to Heaven for us. We need to ask God to help us focus our minds upon Him throughout the day until we learn to speak to Him naturally as a friend by our side. We need to ask God to help us count our blessings and thank Him for them even when we feel as though we may not have any.
Obeying these three big commands requires effort, focus, commitment, and plenty of help from God, but it's the worthwhile work of a lifetime with fruits that will carry over into eternity.
Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances, give thanks.