Children, let us love not in word or speech but, in deed and truth.
But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true child of Israel.” John 1:47-47
So, here we are, five days into the New Year. Most articles or reflections around this time (mine included) mention something about resolutions and how they are going. Many lament how difficult it is to change bad habits or how challenging it is to cultivate good ones. At this time of year there is no lack for advice on how to turn your life around. Some people advocate elaborate systems for setting reminders and establishing rewards. Some simplify the process to just developing more willpower. And, still other say there is no hope, that your habits are part of your nature and that is set.
In our readings for today, however, we have two good examples of how we can change ourselves, our lives, and the world around us. The first, from 1 John, could be a slogan for a shoe company, if you substitute “exercise” for “love.” For John the answer is simple. We must act in accord with our true intentions. Our deeds need to be reflections of our love for each other and our love for God. It is not enough to simply ‘talk the talk.’ And how do we know if we are actually doing this? John goes on to tell us “…if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in God.” For myself, this can be hard. I often find I regret how I handled a situation or the words and tone I used to express myself to another, especially when dealing with complex or deeply personal interactions. But if I listen closely to my heart, it is more of a gentle chiding, a reminder to try better next time than an outright condemnation.
In our gospel reading we have a great example of personal change from Nathanael. When Philip tells him they have found the Chosen One, the true Messiah, he responds with an dismissive, ‘yeah, right!’ And yet he goes beyond his first reaction to follow and see for himself. Once he sees the Lord, he has the grace and openness to recognize Him. Nathanael doesn’t persist in his preconceived notions, but allows a new thought to arise in him.
My prayer for myself today (and for this year) is that I remain open to the new person God is calling me to become, and that I become that person in deed and truth.
Talib Huff is a member of the retreat team at Christ the King Retreat Center in Citrus Heights. He can be contacted at [email protected].