There is a story told of the author of the first reading in today’s liturgy that always was a source of amazement and wonder for me. It is said that as an elderly preacher he would stand in front of the people and simply say: “My dear children, love one another.” The story reveals the foundational truth of the entire Christian message: that we are called on to return God’s love for us with our love for one another. I always imagined what it would have been like to be privileged to hear him say this with all its stark simplicity and truth. Today’s reading is a splendid example of that message to love one another.
This message is the major theme of the New Testament letter referred to as “1 John.” And the passage for today fits squarely into that theme. What could be more central to Jesus’ message than the call to love? And the love that Jesus speaks of is anything but a sentimental feeling. Jesus himself spells this out and it is recorded in St. Matthew’s gospel in the 25th chapter. There, the criterion for entering into the kingdom of God has to do with the ordinary needs that people have: those that are hungry, the sick, the stranger, the thirsty to name just four of those of our sisters and brothers who are in need. Jesus invites us to respond in a caring and in a loving way.
“If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.” This is how the author of 1 John speaks to us today. That message is so clear that we don’t need to belabor the point. Let each of us in this special time around Christmas take these words to heart. What a wonderful invitation to us to put into practice the faith in Christ that enlivens us. May God be with us in that task.
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