“For what thanksgiving can we render to God for you, for all the joy which we feel for your sake before our God, praying earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith? Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you; and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all people, as we do to you, so that he may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” (1 Thess 3: 9-13)

I love how St. Paul is so full of “joy,” that he doesn’t even know “what thanksgiving” he can render to God, – for these Thessalonians, still “lacking” in their faith. He “abounds in love” for them, knowing that they are not perfect. He humbly, gratefully, and joyously loves others, according to the commandment, “as he loves himself,” knowing also himself to be imperfect. And he prays that they, likewise, “increase and abound in love to one another and to all people,” – to all, even when their imperfections are known.

This might be obvious anyway, but let me note to myself that the Church is not some elite society of perfect people. And those of us yet “lacking in faith” and in other ways are loved no less, in the Spirit of joy, humility and thanksgiving that characterizes true fellowship or “communion” in Christ. So let me carry that thought with me today, lest I be discouraged in my imperfections, or in my falling short of Christ’s call. I am a work in progress, and yet loved, as I grow and let God “establish” my “heart unblamable in holiness before our God and Father,” little step by little step, on the cross-carrying journey. May the Lord make us “increase and abound in love to one another and all people,” in the humble self-love we receive through a connection with Him and His apostles. Amen!