January 4, 2017 (Feast of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton)
Wednesday before the Epiphany
The Responsorial Psalm assures us, “All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God” (Psalm 98).
1John 3: 7-10 tells us “Everyone who commits sin is a child of the devil…. Those who have been born of God do not sin.” How should we understand this?
John makes the distinction later (5: 16-18) between sin that is “deadly” or “mortal” and “sin that is not deadly.” For a sin to be “mortal,” what is done must be so evil in itself that it is absolutely incompatible with loving God and other people divinely. Contrary to what was taught to generations of Catholics before Vatican II, very few actions are this evil. And the experience of priests in the confessional indicates that actions that really are this evil are seldom recognized as such by the people who commit them. Think of slavery, the tortures and executions of the Inquisition, the atrocities of war, the mass exploitation of the poor. These sins do not come up in the sacrament of Reconciliation because they are rationalized. Or perhaps — John’s letter makes us wonder — it is because the divine love of God does not truly exist in those who commit them. “Those who have been born of God do not sin [in these atrocious ways], because God's seed abides in them; they cannot sin [in ways so incompatible with love], because they have been born of God.”
To know if we are in sin, we need to look less at laws and more at love. John gives a simple rule: “Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love” (4:8). If we look at what love has done and the lack of love is doing in the Church, we will agree that, in the measure love is visible, “All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.”
John 1: 35-42 tells us how we come into the experience of loving God as Christians do, which means “as Christ does.” It is by encountering God in Jesus himself.
When the first two future disciples met Jesus he asked them, “What are you looking for?” Their answer, though they did not know it at the time, was the basic answer of the human heart: “Where are you staying?” What we all are asking, consciously or not, is, “Where is God? Where can we find him?”
Jesus said, “Come and see.” If we see Jesus, we see the Father (John 8:19, 14:9). But no one can tell us about him; we have to “come and see” for ourselves, interact with Jesus consciously in prayer, Mass, sacraments, at home, at work, at school, all day. Then we will know we “have seen the saving power of God.”
Initiative: If you want to know Jesus, accept his invitation to “Come and see.” Keep looking for personal contact with him at home, at work, in prayer, at Mass.