The Church’s scripture for today, an excerpt from the New Testament’s First Letter of John, warns us of the coming of antichrists.
The popular culture, through the mediums of movies and television, has presented the antichrist as a satanic political figure who is hell bent on taking over the world. This terrifying construct of the human imagination is not what the First Letter of John has in mind.
The antichrist that John warns us of is plural, not singular, meaning that there is more than one, and is someone or something that is really what amounts to be a counterfeit version of Christ. These counterfeit versions of Christ are as active, if not more so, in the Church, as they would be in the world.
A counterfeit version of Christ is a lie, a deception, and lies about the Lord Jesus have been told throughout the long history of the Church. The most pernicious of lies told about Christ are variations of refusals of his revelation that he is God come to us in our flesh. These lies about the Lord Jesus have the effect of dividing the Church, even forming sectarian groups that compliment their faith in the antichrist with the formation an antichurch. Worldly powers are pleased when the Church is divided against itself as it disables the Church, and prevents Christians from accomplishing the mission that Christ has given to us.
Antichrists originate for the most part in our own pride and egoism and grow as a result of our own refusals of Christ and the Church. Rather than accepting Christ for who he reveals himself to be and the Church for what he wills the Church to be, we construct a counterfeit Christ out of our own ideas, feelings or opinions and a Church out of our own causes that serves our own ideological pre-occupations. These idols of our own making are given the appearance of Christ and the Church, but beneath the surface of these glittering idols are lies.
Whenever Christ is reduced to being whatever it is that we want him to be and the Church is used simply as a means to sanction of worldly causes, then this should be taken as evidence of antichrists.
Today’s Gospel repeats the proclamation of Christmas day- the magnificent prologue of the Gospel of John.
The prologue to the Gospel of John is testimony to the revelation of God in Christ who reveals himself in the flesh, that is, in a real, human body. Remember, we believe that God in Christ has accepted a human nature and has through that human nature lived a real, human life.
It is God’s willingness to immerse himself into the totality of human experience, particularly the experiences of suffering and death that transforms and changes us, effecting what the great saints and ages of the Church call “a marvelous exchange”. This means that God accepts from us the experience of a human nature so that we can experience his divine nature.
The experience of Christ’s divine nature happens for us through the Church’s Sacraments, which are not just merely experiences of fellowship in the community or artifacts of ethnicity, but are real encounters with the Lord Jesus.
Thus we do not cherish the Sacraments simply because they are important customs, but because they are occasions through which we meet Christ and learn from him the meaning and purpose of our lives.
God in Christ who revealed himself in the flesh and blood of the body of his human nature also reveals himself in the flesh and blood of the body of his Church. Just as the body (the flesh) of Christ’s human nature served as the privileged means by which he revealed that he loves us and abides with us as God and also as our friend, so now Christ continues to reveal that he loves and abides with us as God and also our friend in the Church.
The revelation of God in Christ who comes in the flesh is the central truth of the Church’s profession (and practice) of the Faith and the Church is the means that Christ uses to introduce his revelation in the flesh to the world.