Daily Reflection
of Creighton University's Online Ministries
January 4th, 2010

Alex Rödlach

Department of Anthropology and Sociology
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.

Monday in the Second Week of Christmas INTL
I John 3:7-10
Psalms 98:1, 7-8, 9
John 1:35-42

Every day we are confronted with people, organizations, businesses, and so on, which want to convince us of something:  to sign up for a neighborhood watch, to buy a new flat-screen TV, to go on a winter hiking trip, to adopt a certain view or assessment of a policy, and so on. It is often difficult to know what is right or wrong, and what we should do. Yet it is important to commit ourselves to an idea and to a particular action. If we don’t, we may lose friends, miss an important opportunity for volunteering, or give our vote to someone who promotes views that ultimately are detrimental to our faith and our values.

Today’s reading from the first letter of Saint John gives us some guidelines for discernment processes. First, the reading says that we should “not trust every spirit,” because “many false prophets have gone out into the world.” These false prophets may motivated us to join the annual shopping stampede in the pre-Christmas season, convince us that certain proposals for reforming our healthcare system are wrong, or encourage us to ignore the Copenhagen climate conference. Such messages ultimately relate to our values and to priorities that are rooted in our faith and the experience of Christ’s saving presence. Thus, we need, as the reading says, to “test the spirits to see whether they belong to God.”

But how do we know which “spirit” comes from God? The author of this biblical reading gives us a clear criterion that indicates if some idea, plan, policy, or action is in line with our faith or not: “This is how you can know the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh belongs to God.” The emphasis is on Christ’s coming in the flesh, his humanity, which we celebrated at Christmas. He became one of us, shared our life with all its joys, disappointments, and sufferings. Our life, “the flesh,” became his priority and while in the flesh his mission was to improve the quality of human life. He went around “curing every disease and illness among the people,” as the Evangelist Matthew says in today’s Gospel. Any “spirit” that does not ignore the “flesh” and that is concerned with “curing” the ailments of our world and its entire people is a spirit that comes from God.

Thus, we need to carefully discern:

  • If messages criticizing planned policies to reform our healthcare system are genuinely concerned with improving the lives of many with whom we live, or if the messages aim to selfishly protect the privileged in our society and powerful stakeholders in the healthcare system.
  • If the invitation to join a neighborhood group of volunteers that scoops off snow from sidewalks of houses owned by elderly residents is the right thing for us to do, or if we could do something else in our residential area that is more in line with our talents and capabilities.
  • If the view doubting the urgency of taking action to address global warming and climate change is rooted in some sort of scientific consensus, or if this view is a refusal to change a destructive lifestyle ignoring its implications for future generations.

These are just some issues that came to my mind when reflection on these readings. I am sure that every one of us remembers additional important issues that our society and our world face. Let’s reflect on the “spirits” in our lives, discern which spirits are from God, and then commit ourselves to his spirits

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