In today’s excerpt from the First Letter of John we are offered distinctions about sin and a practical strategy for fraternal correction.
Sin is the willful, intentional resistance of God’s will and purposes that lead to actions that explicitly reject God’s commandments. The First Letter of John testifies that some sins will not be as serious as others and that this distinction is very important. At times, the gravity of a sin will threaten, not only a person’s relationship with God, but also the community of disciples, and as such, there must be an intervention.
However, not all sin will necessitate this kind of response, and in some respects, the best remedy for sin is prayer. A person who sins does not merit our hate, but our compassion. Sin is a wound, and like the treatment of a wound, our intervention must be such that leads to healing, not harm.
The greater the sin, the greater should be our will to love. In practice, this is very difficult, especially if a person’s sins have had a negative effect on us personally. Compassion for the sinner is one of the great demands and risks of discipleship. The purpose of any intervention is restoration and reconciliation, not to excoriate and punish. If restoration and reconciliation cannot be accomplished, then it is best to pray.
At the conclusion of today’s excerpt from the First Letter of John there is a warning- guard against idolatry.
Idolatry is the worship of false gods. Idolatry is not limited to the worship of mythological beings, but the elevation of any form of worldliness to our ultimate concern. For some it might be wealth, for others it is power and honors, still others, pleasure. Wealth, pleasure, power and honors are the most prevalent of the idols of our own making, and the most destructive.
The temptation of idolatry lures us into sin and it is sin that results in our alienation from God. In terms of the Bible, it is idolatry that is the capital sin and perhaps the most pernicious.
The Gospel today present John the Baptist, who testifies that he is not the expected Messiah.
Who then is John? For John, the answer to this question is not all that important, the more important question is whether or not we will prepared to receive the Messiah when he comes.
Christ is the Messiah and his coming among us is not simply a matter of the end of days or the end of our lives. Christ the Messiah comes to us in his Church, particularly in the Blessed Sacrament, and he always demands our attention as he makes himself known to us in the suffering bodies of the poor. Thus there should be an urgency in our preparations to receive him and our approach should be that Christ is here now and not think that he is delayed or that preparation to receive him can be put off to another day. When Christ comes will we meet him as a stranger or as a friend?
John the Baptist also introduces an important insight, an insight that is not only about his mission, but the mission of every disciple- Christ must increase as we must decrease.
In other words, our mission as disciples is not about personal gain, self promotion, or advancing our causes. Foremost for the disciple is what Christ wants, not what we might want. We serve the mission he gives us, it is not for us to personally tailor the mission to fit our own desires.
Readiness for mission demands self-sacrifice and a death to self, particularly in regards to our own egoism, that is necessary, for it is only through self-sacrifice and death to self that the life and presence of the Lord Jesus can increase in us. We must all decrease, so that Christ might increase.