October 30 – November 5
Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4
Habakkuk is a mysterious figure. Nothing is known of him except his prophetic poem in the Bible. Our reading is a small part of a set of questions Habakkuk puts to God and God’s response. Habakkuk is audacious in questioning God about the injustice he sees everywhere and about the immediate enemy, the Chaldeans, a fierce tribal people who are helping the Babylonians in the sack of Israel. God’s answer is to wait: justice will eventually be done; just wait. Such waiting can only be accomplished by one of faith. Look at the very last lines of the book: the herds are scattered, the crops gone; they are without food and waiting for the attack of an enemy that will kill them all: “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord…the Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, and makes me tread upon the heights.”
ALTERNATIVE FIRST READING
First Isaiah addresses down the rulers and people of Judah and Jerusalem. In a metaphor he names them the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Israel, the northern kingdom, had fallen to Assyria and its people were being taken into slavery. The same would come to Judah, he says, if it does not reform. He is not impressed by Temple worship, the sacrifice of animals, the burnt offerings, the blood poured out for God, the incense. He cares nothing for festivals (determined by phases of the moon). What he wants is a reform of behavior: he wants to see goodness, charity benevolence. Reform your moral behavior, and all past sins will be forgiven.
2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12
Paul writes to the Christians of Thessalonica, encouraging them in their faithfulness and in their living lives worthy of their God. But our reading does not include anything on the central issue of this letter, which seems to be a corrective to the message in First Thessalonians. In the first, Paul tells his followers in the town of Thessalonica that the coming of the Lord in a magnificent parousia to judge the living and the dead will happen soon. This letter warns the people against such expectations. The coming will be preceded by great disasters, and none such have yet occurred. Wait, he says. Live quietly, and live moral lives. It will eventually happen. Many scholars, unable to explain why Paul should have changed his mind, conclude that Paul did not write this letter.