Reasons to Rejoice
Saint Paul seems to be throwing out a handful of sayings that may sound overly optimistic, but are actually very practical. “Rejoice always? Who can do that?” It sounds absurd, but the next two lines give it context: If we pray constantly and thank God for all that happens to us, we have reason to rejoice. Whatever happens is the will of God for us. Even the bad things, things we don’t like, can be allowed by God, so that God can bring good out of them. God allows sin because it leads to forgiveness, an experience of God’s love for us. And God allows even death, because God can bring us to eternal life.
The next two sayings may be a little obscure. When Paul tells us not to quench the Spirit, he means we should be open to what the Holy Spirit moves us to do. “Prophetic utterances” refer to things that other people were inspired to proclaim. If we pray constantly (1 Thessalonians 5:17) we won’t be so distracted by the things of this world that we cannot hear the promptings of the Holy Spirit in us. We won’t be so critical of others that we miss what the Spirit is telling us through them.
How do we know if something really is from the Spirit? The next phrase helps with that: Test everything. Retain what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Use the scriptures, the teachings of the Church, and your conscience to decide whether the Spirit is moving you, or if advice you hear is worthwhile. And most of all trust God to help with all this because God wants us to be holy. God will make us holy if we only allow it. Then we will be ready for the coming of the Lord, whether through the sacraments, the celebration of Christmas, or God’s final coming in glory. I’d say that’s a reason to rejoice.