Thursday, The Sixth Day in the Octave of Christmas
Thursday, December 29, 2021
Holy Ghost Church – 8:00 Mass
1 John 2:12-17; Psalm 96:7-8a, 8b-9, 10; Luke 2:36-40
In today’s first reading, John encourages us to be strong in our faith. He reminds us that our sins have been forgiven and to remember that the word of God is within us and, as a result, we have truly conquered the evil one.
After reminding us of the gift of salvation we possess, John then moves from encouragement to exhortation. Knowing that our sins have been forgiven, knowing that we, indeed, know Him who is from the beginning, Jesus, the Word made flesh, and knowing that we have conquered the Evil One, what are we to do?
First, we are not to love the world or the things of the world. The term “world” (kosmos) occurs twenty-three times in John’s letter. Most often in 1 John “world” refers to human society that is set against God. The society that is the home of sinful patterns of life and is under the power of the evil one.
When John calls us to “not love the world or the things of the world,” he is NOT referring to the created order which is good, very good. Rather, John is referring to a system of values and a sphere of temptation in human society that is hostile to God.
This is why love for the Father and love for the world are mutually exclusive: if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
John identifies three negative qualities that are NOT from the Father but are from the world. The first is sensual lust, literally, “desire of the flesh” or according to the New Jerusalem Bible’s translation, “disordered bodily desires.” The “world” is the place where all the disordered appetites of our body are fanned into flame.
The second negative quality found in the world is enticement for the eyes, literally, “the desire of the eyes.” From the world comes the allurement of our eyes, drawing them away from God to things that are sinful.
The third worldly quality is a pretentious life, literally, “the boastfulness of life.” John is warning us against an arrogant or boastful manner of life, especially in regard to our material possessions.
John concludes today by reminding us that the world and its enticements are passing away. The fallen world with its enticements to sin will not endure, and when Jesus returns, the “world” in this sense will definitively pass away. Therefore, we are to conclude that those who persist in doing the will of the world will pass away with the world.
However, and here’s the EXCEPTIONALLY GOOD NEWS, whoever does the will of God REMAINS FOREVER. The one who keeps the commandments of God and walks in the light has eternal life.
John’s directive, “Do not love the world or the things of the world,” almost seems like a nearly impossible task today, doesn’t it? “Sensual lust” has become a god in our culture. Fighting off “enticement for the eyes” has never been more challenging.
Also, in our intensely materialistic society, the acquisition of things is constantly paraded before our eyes as the ideal for which we ought to strive. All this leads to an arrogant posture that we have control over our own lives through the things we possess and the power we wield. This is why so many today believe they have no need for God.
Though the enticements in the world may be more potent than ever, we are not without hope, because the grace of Christ is superabundant. The grace we receive most efficaciously in the Eucharist.
Perhaps what we all need most is to reacquire the practices of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.
Through prudent fasting we progress in mastery over the disorderly desires of our physical appetites. Perhaps we should consider the practice of not eating meat on Fridays throughout the year, not just during Lent.
Through daily prayer and reception of the Eucharist we draw near to God and set our eyes on “things that are above”, and so gain better mastery over the temptations of the world.
Through regular almsgiving we counter the temptation to boast in our riches and are reminded that our treasure is in heaven. Do we give alms only from our abundance, from our leftovers? Or does it hurt a little when we give?
Above all, we need to draw strength and courage from the truth that the one who is in us is greater than the one who is in the world. If we never forget that we are children of God we will keep our eyes on Christ and we will overcome the enticements of the world.
Let us always remember who we belong to and walk through the world with the confidence that in Christ we have truly conquered the Evil One.