Paul on Paul – 1st November 2020

Solemnity of All Saints; Year A
1 John 3:1-3
Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God’s children; and that is what we are. Because the world refused to acknowledge him, therefore it does not acknowledge us. My dear people, we are already the children of God but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed; all we know is, that when it is revealed we shall be like him because we shall see him as he really is. Surely everyone who entertains this hope must purify himself, must try to be as pure as Christ.

To address the elephant in the room: this Sunday also happens to be a ‘moveable feast’ of the Solemnity of All Saints (or All Saints’ Day) – so our 2nd Reading this week comes not from a Pauline Letter – but a Johnine one. The first Epistle of John is a short letter – only 5 chapters long – but it can be used as a litmus test of our Faith. Today’s passage opens the second half of the letter, which examines what it means to be a “Child of God” in a fallen world.

“Because the world refused to acknowledge him, therefore it does not acknowledge us” might seem almost like a inferiority complex read today. At the time the letter was written (believed to be around 100-110AD) the Christian Church was still prosecuted in the Roman Empire and Martyrdom was still a common result of Christian faith. Today, thankfully, for most people in the world, we do not face the same threats – though we should always remember those (in China and the Middle East) who face systematic injustice and violence because of their faith.

But consider this in a more contemporary context – “Because the world refused to acknowledge him, therefore it does not acknowledge us”. The concept of charity as we understand it today is a Christian idea. Prior to the spread of Christianity, the poor and hungry and lame were left to fend for themselves – but it was the early Church who extended Christ’s message of love for all. When we read of hungry children, of the poor being unsupported and the ill or elderly being ignored, has the world not once again refused to acknowledge God and his children?

But why, then should we bear the burden when others do not? What duty to we owe –  other that supporting those less fortunate than ourselves being a good things to do? Because, John tells us, in the future – after death, at the time we hope to be among those Saints the Church celebrates today – we hope to be with and like Christ. And to show our sincerity in that mission we “…must try to be as pure as Christ” even if we know that we will come up short. To become a “Child of God” we must imitate the “Son of God” in Jesus.

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