The Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas
(I John 2:3-11; Luke 2:22-35)
A well-published scholar once ignited a holy man’s ire by calling John’s letters, “New Testament baby-talk.” The scholar only meant to say that John’s letters possess simplicity and directness as if they were written for children. We see this in today’s first reading. “Whoever loves his brother remains in the light...,” John writes, “Whoever hates his brother remains in darkness...”
John does not have enemy-love in mind here as if he were challenging Christians to love those who hate them. Nor does he mean exactly that Christians have to love blood brothers and sisters. He is simply reiterating Jesus’ commandment to his community of disciples that they love one another. It may sound easy, but hard feelings can sprout like weeds when humans associate. Disputes have originated in the Altar and Rosary Society and in the Holy Name Society as if these associations were different bands of pirates in search of the same treasure. Everyone feels frustration, envy, and even enmity with his or her associates at times. John is saying that we must overcome these troublesome sentiments.
John would be oversimplifying if he meant that we may limit our love to those with whom we go to church. Certainly such love for brothers and sisters in the religious or parish community teaches toleration, respect, and compassion so that we in turn may love even those who hate us.