(I John 4:19-5:4; Luke 5:12-16)
In a movie adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel Les Miserables, Jean Valjean writes a letter to his wife from prison. He is a largely unlettered man so he only manages to say, “I love you,” over and over again. The first letter of John, from which we read today, may sound almost as simplistic. However, its meaning is as profound as its lesson is worth repeating.
The author of the letter knows from bitter experience how the world can corrupt a person. For this reason he underlines the need to keep God’s commandments. But, he says, this is not a difficult task because the essence of the commandments is love which brings its own delight. “Not necessarily true,” we might object from our own experience trying to please difficult persons. But John locates the object of love exercised on behalf of others to be God Himself. Realizing this, the sacrifices we make seem negligible in comparison to all the blessings that God has heaped upon us.
As defrocked Christmas trees dot empty lots, Christmas becomes a flickering memory. Our resolve to live each day with the love we felt on Christmas can grow similarly vague. These readings from the First Letter of John, then, become critical reminders that God has given us Christ so that we might continue caring for others.