First Reading Commentary
The Hebrew text depicts a more graphic description of "stubble" by its translation of straw meeting the flame. That is not a pleasant visual of what will happen to the “arrogant and wicked,” as it translates from the Hebrew text.
The saints in their writings were very open about their understanding of the sacred texts and did not shy away from difficult passages such as this. Of course, it's always easier to focus on the merciful God instead of the just God; but ignoring the difficult verses of Sacred Scripture won't make them go away.
In our ongoing conversion process, our sorrow for offending God should contain both perfect and imperfect contrition. Perfect contrition is sorrow for sin because we love God and have offended Him. Imperfect contrition or attrition, as it is sometimes called, is motivated by a fear of losing our heavenly reward to the horrors of hell.
Truth comes from God alone and is revealed through Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition as interpreted by the Magisterium of the Church. Our pursuit for the Face of Jesus cannot be deterred by the mixed bag of messages from secularism. No question that the road to sanctity is a tough road to stay on due mainly to cultural influences that are exposed to us daily. But what is popular or even mainstream is not necessarily right or moral. There's a promise of healing for all who have a fear of God. In the bigger picture this Reading not only invites us to examine our own level of love and fear of God, but also prophesies our Lord Jesus Christ's final victory over evil. That is the promise and Truth of God no matter what other influences try to paint a different picture.
Second Reading Commentary
Saint Paul always seems to have a sense of urgency. Unfortunately, even urgent pleas concerning salvation could lose their "oomph" when they've been proclaimed for two-thousand years.
Remember that spirited vigor that followed shortly after the tragedy of 9/11? Our nation came together, partisan politics took a back seat, and our churches had standing room only. Now that the sting of that tragic day has subsided, it's back to the status quo. Time may heal all wounds but it also can reopen old ones and create new ones.
Saint Paul makes a good case for imitating him because he presents himself as a model, but it's now two millennia later and length of time coupled with impatience could easily puncture holes into one's faith and entertain the question of: "Shouldn't Christ have returned by now?"
With all the modern conveniences we enjoy today: televisions with remote controls and now in this age of cable and satellite, Lord knows how many channels there are. There's the Internet and email, cell phones and fax machines; what used to be thirty minutes in an oven is now three minutes in a microwave. Many of these conveniences which are designed to save us time actually seem to take up all our time. Emails may save us a trip to the post office; and the Internet may save us a trip to the library but the computer also has a way of enticing us into more things than we intended to get involved with. Surely one can gain more wisdom from the Internet than reading Scripture? And isn't it much easier and more relaxing to watch television than pray? The tempter is a powerful entity and is well aware of our weaknesses. When conveniences and the lap of luxury begin to interfere with our time with the Lord, then possibly there's more at work here than just our own will. And most of us would never suspect a thing since these modern forms of convenience could lure virtually anyone into thinking that everything is hunky-dory. Convenience itself is a good thing and a gift from God but like all good gifts, they can be abused. And when our salvation is at stake, it would be beneficial to continue to heed the words and example of Saint Paul and all the saints, no matter how long ago it's been since these holy men and women lived on earth.
No one knows when our Lord's Parousia will occur or when our own earthly journey will cease, but let's not forget these words from Saint Paul: "For you know perfectly, that the day of the Lord shall come as a thief in the night." (1 Thessalonians 5:2). The point is that our spiritual selves should always be prepared to meet the Lord because He could come many years from now or before you finish reading this commentary.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that before Christ's Second Coming the Church will pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that is to come will unveil the mystery of iniquity in the form of religious deception which will offer believers a solution to their problems but in reality it will lead them away from the truth (cf. CCC 675).
As Catholics it would probably be more beneficial for us to stay away from all the doomsday talk concerning the end times which flood the airwaves from various television and radio ministries. If you take to heart what is shared here from the Catechism, with a decline in both Mass attendance and vocations to the priesthood you could make the case that the faith of many has already been shaken; plus all the signs that our Lord lists in this Gospel: wars and insurrections, nations rising against other nations, kingdoms against kingdoms, powerful earthquakes, famines and plagues - one could easily make the argument that these types of things have been occurring for a long time. And that's why it's best just to continue to walk in faith and whenever the final hour arrives, so be it. We have no way of knowing the span of years it will take before all the biblical apocalyptic warnings are completed.
Anyone who is now at an adult age could surely testify that the world has been pacing on a moral decline since their childhood. Christ speaks of persecutions and being seized and thrown into prison while some will be put to death. Most of the early Fathers agree that this futuristic event was actually not all that far in the future and was meant specifically for Christ's chosen twelve; and most of them were indeed martyred. Our focus should stay on Jesus and being the holy men and women He called us to be; and try not to get all caught up in the hoopla concerning the end of the world, except only to be prepared for that day by being constantly in a state of grace. If we are truly making efforts to be genuine disciples of Christ, then while we wait for our Lord's return, we can, as proclaimed at Mass, "wait in JOYFUL HOPE for the coming of our Savoir, Jesus Christ."