Immersed in Christ: January 8, 2021
Friday After Epiphany (Continue reflections on 1John)
Today the Responsorial (Psalm 147) changes to, “Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.”
1John 5: 5-13 was written for a very specific purpose: “to make you realize that you possess eternal life — you who believe in the name of the Son of God.” If we really do realize this, what can depress us? No matter how bad things get, the truth is that we have within us the divine life of God, the life God has. We need to keep ourselves aware of this.
“Eternal life” is not simply the gift of human life extended. “Grace” means the “favor” of sharing in the divine life of God. “Eternal” means “that which is without beginning and without end.” Only God is eternal. To have “eternal life” is to share in the life of God that is without beginning or end, and without boundaries. It is the fullness of knowledge, love and enjoyment which we find in communion (shared union) with God and every other person in grace.
We receive this life by being incorporated into Jesus Christ. “This life is in his Son. Whoever possesses the Son possesses life.” This is what we proclaim at the beginning of Mass: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” No matter how bad everything else is in our lives, this gives us reason to say always, “Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.”
John writes of the Light that lets us know, of the Life that is what we know, and of the Love by which we know. If we love we know we are in the Light and in possession of the Life that is Jesus, the Word made flesh, who is the “Way, the Truth and the Life.” 1
“There are three that testify” to this: the water of Baptism, the blood of Christ, which converts water from just a symbol of washing into a symbol of dying and rising, and the Spirit who validates the testimony of the other two.
We know that we have eternal life because the Spirit within us tells us so. But we also have the visible fact of our Baptism, and our faith that through it we were reborn— not just of “water and the Spirit,” but also of blood. At Baptism, which by preference is through immersion, we went down into the water as into the grave, because by Baptism we were incorporated into the body of Jesus on the cross, died in Christ and were buried with him. But no grave can retain him who is Life itself. When Jesus the Author of life went into the tomb, that tomb became a womb, the matrix of divine life. So we rose out of the tomb-womb of Baptism filled with the new life — divine life, eternal life — that God shares with those who are reborn, “begotten of God.” 2
That, in a nutshell, is the Good News of the “love of God” that we celebrate at Mass. If we have truly heard the Good News and truly know the love of God, we will have reason to shout, “Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.”
Luke 5: 12-16 shows us one man’s experience of God’s love revealed in Christ. A leper “bowed to the ground” before him, acknowledging his divine power, and addressed his question directly to Jesus’ love: “Lord, if you will to do so you can make me clean.”
We can learn from him. It is not really “reductionism” if in dealing with God we narrow the issue down to love: his love and ours. Jesus did it when dealing with Peter: “If you love me, feed my sheep.” In revealing his Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary in 1673, he invited the world to focus on his love, instead of on his power and majesty as God. And more recently, in 1931 he revealed his heart to St. Faustina Kowalska, with two rays shining from it, representing blood and water, to “communicate to the world the great message of God's mercy and… the pattern of Christian perfection based on trust in God and... mercy toward one's neighbors.” John Paul II explained “the blood recalls the sacrifice of the Cross and the gift of the Eucharist. The water, in Johannine symbolism, represents not only Baptism but also the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Faustina wrote in her Diary that Jesus said of his love:
I sent prophets wielding thunderbolts to my people. Today I am sending you with my mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to my merciful heart. 3
The “Spirit, the water and the blood” a
ll testify to “the love of God.”
Initiative: Get clear what you understand and experience as “the love of God.”
1 John 1:1-18, 14:6. 2 John 3:1-21; Romans 6:3-4; Acts 2:24. 3 See the Vatican website: “Faustina,” John 3:5; 4:14; 7:37-39.