Saint John’s letters and gospel are more philosophical than St. Paul’s letters and the other three gospels. It’s helpful to keep this in mind diving into today’s Word. From where we stand in 21st century western culture, it can be confusing when John’s letter simultaneously says anyone who acts with righteousness is begotten by God, AND that no one who sins has seen the Lord. Aren’t we begotten by God in our Baptism? And yet we all continue to sin. What’s happening here?
St. John likes to talk about Christ’s cosmic repercussions. The saving events of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection are viewed from the perspective of eternity, when time will no longing have meaning. From this perspective, we see that in Christ, we are (will be) delivered from all the sins of our life. We have been washed in the blood of the lamb, and made white and pure. John is showing that the Christian life is not just about particular moments of good and evil action; it’s about the sanctification of an eternal soul. John the Baptist is saying the same thing when he talks about Jesus being ‘the one to come after me who existed before me…’ he’s using circular terms to describe his cousin, because Jesus exists both in the particular moment, and eternally without beginning or end. He has come up to the limits of language and found God to be far beyond.
All the ends of the Earth have seen the saving power of God; it arches through time and space. It transforms darkness into light. The readings’ focus on eternity runs contrary to our experience; we tend to think of the present moment as definitive. But nothing could be more fleeting! Personally, I spend so much energy trying to ‘get it right’ every day. This is a virtue, but it can result in acting from ego instead of from God’s love. We need to remember that these little moments are less important than what Christ means for us. We are begotten by God; we are Christ’s brothers and sisters, immeasurably loved. Whatever righteousness we have was born of God. The Holy Spirit purifies and Baptizes us; we do not purify ourselves.
Today and always, let us remember that our whole life is sanctified and purified by the Holy Spirit’s contact with us through Christ. We are made for eternity with a loving God; let our actions flow from that truth. Amen.