The Responsorial Psalm still invites us, “Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice” (Psalm 96).
1 John 2: 18-21 gives us an unexpected reason for rejoicing: “Many antichrists have appeared…. They went out from us, but…. their desertion shows that they were not really of our number.”
John is talking about people who left the Church preaching a view of life in radical contradiction to the truth revealed in Jesus. He judges that they didn’t lose the faith; they just never truly embraced it. What is there here to rejoice in?
We rejoice, not because others are in error, but because we are in a community of truth. And it is a gift from God “You have the anointing that comes from the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.”
In our day many Catholics have defected. They may not have actually “left” the Church, but they are “leaving it alone” for awhile. They no longer assemble with us to hear the word of God, to offer themselves with Christ at Mass for the life of the world, and to be fed with the Bread of Life. What does this say to us?
It certainly makes us question whether our teaching is too narrow, our religious observances too automatic, our pastoral practice too legalistic, and our participation in Eucharist too individualistic and apathetic. It makes us ask whether we are helping each other enter into live, personal, vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. But the bottom line is, when people leave us, they are not turning toward the truth but away from it. When people leave the whole to focus on the part, we need to focus more intently on the whole.
John 1: 1-18 brings us to basics. Jesus is the Word of God. All that is real, true or good came to be through him. The Word became flesh and dwells in the Church, his body on earth. In him is life, and this life is the light of the human race, the true light which enlightens everyone. To those who accept the light, he gives divine life. If we abide in him our lives will bear the fruit of divine truth and goodness, and the Father will be glorified in us (John 14:5-8). If we do not “gather” with him (same root as synagogue or “assembly” in James 2:2) we will scatter.1 For us to receive “from his fullness,” then, we need to assemble with him in the Church. There the Word of God is “Emmanuel: God-with-us.”
1 See the same root as “assembly” in Matthew 12:30, 23:37; Mark 13:27; John 11:52.
Initiative: If you want to know Jesus, seek him where he can be found. Assemble with him in the Church. Let the Word made flesh speak to you in preaching, teaching and spiritual discussions. Seek the fullness of Light and Life.