Tuesday, January 02, 2007

2 January
Memorial of Ss. Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen
Remaining in Him

Readings: 1 John 2:22-28; Psalm 98:1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4; John 1:19-28

Christmas day is past, but we remain in the Christmas season till the feast of the Baptism of the Lord next Monday. Rather than hurriedly moving on to the next item on our busy agenda, whatever it may be, we will take this time to linger, to enter ever more deeply into the mystery that we celebrate, to savor the gift that we have received at Christmas: the coming of God among us as a human person. And we are helped by our readings from the letters and gospel of John.

Indeed the first reading affirms us in our efforts at lingering and savoring by highlighting a distinction between two groups of people. The difference between them is not that one has and the other hasn’t seen God. For it is as we proclaimed in the response to our psalm: in Christ, in the face of the babe in the manger, all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. As John the Baptist says to those sent by the Pharisees in the gospel: Christ already stands among you. And because God has become a human person, every bit of human reality bears the imprint of the divine. Every aspect of our daily experience, however routine and ordinary, is a potential meeting-place between us and God.

Rather, the distinction John calls attention to is between those who acknowledge and those who deny. Who are those who deny? What are they like? They are the ones who cannot bring themselves to believe that God has actually become human. They reject the idea that God is to be found in the often chaotic routine of ordinary human living. They prefer to keep looking for something new, extraordinary and perfect. They prefer to listen to self-proclaimed experts offering esoteric religious practices and insights. And in so doing they cause much disunity in the Body of Christ.

In contrast, John exhorts the members of his community to continue acknowledging that God has already come in the flesh. They should not keep looking for something new. Instead they should strive to remain, to linger, to enter more deeply, to cling to that which they have received at their baptism – the teaching of Christ and the anointing of the Spirit of truth that teaches them, in the ordinary circumstances of their lives, all that they need to know.

By doing this, by acknowledging that Christ has come in the flesh, they will be like John the Baptist in the gospel. They will come to understand and to accept their own proper identity and dignity as people called to help prepare the way for Christ in the hearts of others. And, secure in this knowledge, they will also preserve the unity that exists among them in Christ.

And isn’t it also the same with us? Don’t we also need to guard against our own tendencies to restlessly seek out the novel and the spectacular? And don’t we need to recognize these tendencies for what they are: attempts at escaping the face and voice of the God who comes to us in the everyday?

How are we being called to remain in Christ today?

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