Immersed in Christ: December 31, 2020
Seventh Day of Christmas and Feast of St. Sylvester I
Responsorial Psalm 96 still invites us to express koinonia: “Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice.”
1John 2: 18-21 speaks to every Christian whose friends or family members have “left our ranks” — either left the Church or chosen to “leave it alone” for awhile by defecting from the community that gathers for Eucharist. How should we feel about this?
First, John says this is a characteristic of the “final hour” and a sign that the “antichrist” is at work. We should not dramatize these words. The “final hour” is not the “day of the Lord,” when Jesus will come again, but simply the last “hour,” or historical period, of the world: the time from the coming of the Messiah to his return at the end of the world. All who oppose or falsify the truth of Christ are “anti-christs.” In this sense we can identify the “antichrist” with every distorted human culture, or with the “world” as John uses the word.
So why have our children left the Church? Parents blame themselves, the bishops and priests, parish ministry in general, or various trends in the Church. Or all of the above. But the most deadly influence is simply the seduction of the culture: the winds and currents of thought and behavior in families, schools, universities, social groups, advertising, business and politics that constantly disorient us.
Benedict XVI identified Relativism as the “central problem for faith today.” Now he seems to be targeting “secularism.”1 Both of these are cultural, not religious trends. But if our society can succeed in stripping education of all rational certitude, and the social environment of all visible signs of religion, this has to have an effect. If we add to this the perennial lure of “sensuality, the lure of appearances, and pride which comes from earthly possessions”2 that saturate the media and music youth are immersed in, and which deeply infect (let’s be honest) the practical value-system expressed in family, educational and business life, the odds against faith surviving in youth are slim. The young are conformity-addicted; they feel a desperate need to “belong.”
We owe it to them to give them koinonia: a strong awareness of “communion in the Holy Spirit” shared with all believers. For this the word of our faith must be made flesh. Our communal faith, hope and love must find daily, constant, credible, enthusiastic expression at home, in Christian schools, and at Mass.
John 1: 1-18 says it all: “The Word became flesh.” Christianity is the religion of the incarnate God. We express our faith, our hope, our love physically. When we do, the Light of divine life in us becomes visible, and we make visible “his glory, the glory that he has... as only Son of the Father, filled with enduring love.” To see, taste, share, and experience that glory together is to experience koinonia. Belonging.
The key to this is self-expression. “No one has ever seen God.” But the Word who became flesh “has revealed him.” We extend that revelation by letting him express himself now in and through our physical words and actions.
Initiative: Give flesh to the glory of Christian koinonia. Express your faith.
1 For Relativism see “The Central Problem for Faith Today,” an address given by Cardinal Ratzinger to the presidents of the Doctrinal Commissions of Latin America, in Guadalajara, Mexico, 1996. For Secularism, see John Allen’s blog, http://ncronline,org, Nov 6, 2009. 2 See New Jerusalem Bible footnote to 1John 2:16.