Memorial of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, Religious
The first reading at first seems a contradiction. We know that we are all sinners. Yet it says that anyone who does righteous deeds is righteous, and anyone who sins is a child of the devil. Here on Earth we sadly have our feet in both worlds; we’re all “a little bit bad and a little bit good.” From my Baptism, I have been in the family of God, a son of God and a brother of Jesus. But certainly I have sinned since my Baptism! So what is John trying to say here?
Thanks to good scripture scholars and our church’s tradition, we know. When 1 John was written, a popular heresy claimed that once you truly were born of God, you became ‘above’ both sin and righteousness; good works and evil works became meaningless for people lead astray by this false teaching. A lot of what they claimed lined up with the gospel, so it was causing division in Christianity. But as Jesus said, “by their fruit you will know them.” This group, called gnostics, had stopped doing charitable works and righteous deeds. They felt that their knowledge of God and their words of faith were sufficient. But the love of Christ impels true followers to action. We are driven by gratitude for God’s many blessings to work for the good of our brother and sisters. The author of 1 John is reminding the faith community of some pillars of our faith: we must love one another as Christ has loved us, laying down our lives for one another. We must act righteously toward one another and toward all of humanity. It is God’s ‘seed,’ the Holy Spirit present within us, that inspires us to do good and helps us avoid evil. When we do fall into sin, the way out is through a communal reconciliation with God through the Church; again, in loving one another. It’s when we fail to do good deeds and fail to be present and active in church that we become vulnerable to the devil.
In the Psalm and Gospel today, we see the underwriting joy of discipleship. God’s saving power is working in the world, through Jesus. In being present to Him as John’s followers were, we find the joy of our salvation. We find peace. We find the Kingdom of Love and Justice. The way can be mysterious. As in the dialogue between Jesus and Andrew and Peter, asking questions often leads to more questions. This is the mystical way of faith. Somehow, Jesus is healing us. If we strive to walk with God, somehow we will be remade in the divine image, saved from ourselves, and shine as a light for others. Like Saint Andrew in today's gospel reading, let’s reach out to our brothers, sisters, and neighbors, and invite them into the Kingdom.