In 2nd Thessalonians 2:15, Saint Paul tells us to: “stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught.” In our youth, most of us were taught the basics of Christian belief and practice. For more than a few of us, these basics came later in life. Regardless of how or when we came to practice the Christian religion, there is a temptation to become attracted to, or to dabble in, practices antithetical to our growth in holiness. There are many, let me list three:
- Superstition: broadly defined as irreverent worship of God or a false devotion frequently stemming from a tendency to magic. Examples of this include burying a statue of St Joseph upside-down facing a home in order to sell it, or believing that if one leaves copies of a certain number of prayers to St Jude in the pews of a church then the petition will be granted. This misplaced piety seeks to place a claim on God (read: forcing God to do something). True prayer demands that we approach him with empty hands, because prayer isn’t a sort of quid pro quo. Then there are many who religiously check their horoscopes everyday. Many think this is harmless, but it quickly becomes a sort daily devotional. A better practice would be to read a few verses from Proverbs everyday, then one would be truly wise as well as receive true insights into daily life.
- The cult of the body: there have always been some people who are in better shape than others: they run faster, jump higher, or lift more. In the end, though, these are usually just external appearances that give little indication to the real heart of a person. Nowadays, however, it seems that the number of people who show excessive concern for physical fitness and excessive concern for only eating specific types of organic foods has greatly increased. To be clear, there is a certain good connected with having a good diet and stable exercise routine. What I’m speaking against is the error that says: if I only put good things into my body and make my body as sleek as possible, then I will be good. The only thing that makes us good is the dignity God gives us. Good works–not external appearances–serve to adorn this goodness.
- Gossip: idle talk, especially about others. This is perhaps the easiest sin to fall into which stymies our growth in holiness. Dwelling on the faults and shortcomings of others mostly serves to show and increase one’s own internal emptiness. Some people feel a compulsion to talk because they think that is how community is made. True community is built by shared purpose: a parish assembled to worship = true community. Gossip undermines community because it pushes people further apart instead of knitting them closer together. Gossip forces us to only look at the outside of a person so that we are blinded to what could be going on inside of them.
Superstition, the cult of the body, and gossip: three behaviors that were not a part of God’s original plan for our happiness. In order to grow in holiness, may each us avoid them and “stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that we were taught” (2nd Thessalonians 2:15).
This my reflection on 2nd Thessalonians 2:15 and the readings at Mass today, what are your thoughts and reflections?