1 John 2:22-28
This day’s first reading, from the First Letter of John, reminds me of the importance of affirming what we know to be true, and avoiding the futile denials that are intended to bring other persons, or their beliefs, down. A great Passionist in Holy Cross Province died in 2012, Fr. Frederick Sucher. Fr. Fred was one of our class’ philosophy professors in the mid-1960’s. Of many things that he taught us, I remember one of his tenets, which still rings true today: "There is usually more error in what a person denies than in what someone affirms."
This has been very much my experience during these days, when I have been invited to accompany some friends who are members of 12-Step Recovery programs. Over several meetings, I have noticed how much denial is an "enemy" of the truth. If someone can turn from denial to an affirmation of what is really true in his or her life, then life blossoms in its colorful and rich diversity. If someone continues to live in an attitude of denial, then his or her life remains a continuing battle to maintain a falsehood rather than to affirm a shared truth:
"Let what you heard from the beginning remain in you.
If what you heard from the beginning remains in you,
then you will remain in the Son and in the Father.
And this is the promise that he made us: eternal life.
I write you these things about those who would deceive you. (I John 2, 24-26)"
This is the picture that we have of Jesus and his disciples in the Gospels. As a matter of fact, the beginning of the Gospel of Luke is very similar to today’s passage from the First Letter of John in its intention to affirm what Jesus has taught his disciples:
"Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down to us,
I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received. (Lk 1, 1-4)"
For both the author of John’s First Letter, and the author of the Prologue to Luke’s gospel, the affirmation of the truth of the life-changing events they have lived with Jesus is the strength that binds them together in a fellowship of the truth.
We live that fellowship of the truth as members of the Body of Christ, His Church. We share the truth of the love of Jesus for us and our bond with one another as a pledge of the fellowship to come in its fullness ("And this is the promise that he made us: eternal life.")
Perhaps it is no coincidence that today we also commemorate two Doctors of the Church, Sts. Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen. They were two men born in Cappadocia, who became friends with the ardor springing from great minds and even greater hearts. Both Bishops, both led their churches in a time of challenge from the Arian heresy. Gregory preached the funeral homily for his friend, Basil.
This Christmas season is a time of fellowship. May we live the great truth of the Incarnation of Jesus as our brother in an honest fellowship of heart, mind, and soul, with every one of our brothers and sisters with whom we will share part of this day.
Fr. Arthur Carrillo, C.P. is the director of the Missions for Holy Cross Province. He lives in Chicago, Illinois.