The Fifth Day within the Octave of the Nativity of the Lord
(I John 2:3-11; Luke 2:22-35)
A biblical scholar once ignited a holy man’s ire by calling John’s letters, “New Testament baby-talk.” The scholar meant 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 Arab Christians to love soldiers. Nor does he mean exactly that Christians have affection for 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 in a cow pasture when humans get together. Disputes have originated among Guadalupanas and among Knights of Columbus as if these associations were different bands of pirates searching for the same treasure. Most everyone feels frustration, envy, and even enmity with his or her associates at times. John is saying that we must let go of these troublesome sentiments and treat one another with respect.
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, care, and compassion so that we in turn may love even those who hate us.