5th Sunday of Easter; Year B
1 John 3:18-24
My children, our love is not to be just words or mere talk, but something real and active; only by this can we be certain that we are children of the truth and be able to quieten our conscience in his presence, whatever accusations it may raise against us, because God is greater than our conscience and he knows everything. My dear people, if we cannot be condemned by our own conscience, we need not be afraid in God’s presence, and whatever we ask him, we shall receive, because we keep his commandments and live the kind of life that he wants.
His commandments are these: that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and that we love one another as he told us to. Whoever keeps his commandments lives in God and God lives in him. We know that he lives in us by the Spirit that he has given us.
It is easy to make a promise you have no intention of keeping, or one that you would like to keep, but you’re not too fussed if you do or not. It can also be easy to ‘seek out’ ignorance, to not look for the answer if it’s too difficult, or we may not like the answer. But it can be difficult to do someting that we believe – even to the point of knowing – is right, becuase we worry about the condemnation of others. It’s these 3 challenges the 2nd reading is explicitly addressing this Sunday.
“Our love is not to be just words or mere talk, but something real and active“. If love is wanting another’s highest good, then that is not something we can be passive about. How many times to parents help their children out of love to help them achieve; how many people help a partner prepare for a big interview out of love; or friends just ‘be there’ for others out of a love of them. Love cannot just happen – it requries movement and action by one for another. We cannot love passively.
“God is greater than our conscience …if we cannot be condemned by our own conscience, we need not be afraid“. Victor Hugo wrote that “Conscience is God present in man”. God made us with a concience to guide us, but or conciences are not ‘little Gods’ – but they are incredibly important in guiding our actions as humans. The Church has two clear teachings on our conscience. The first is that under no circumstances should one violate one’s conscience; but the other is that, at the same time, we have a duty to inform our conscience in line with God’s Truth. We can allow our prayers to guide us, our priests and their homilies, Key Documents of the Church (such as the Catechism of the Church, Papal letters and other key documents), good and proper catechesis (like this), and, of course, our response to the Bible. This is not an easy task, but again, knowledge and understanding is not something that can ‘just happen’ – it requires movement and action on our part towards God’s Truth. We cannot know passively.
“His commandments are these: that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and that we love one another as he told us to“. God asks of us two things – to believe in Jesus and who he is; and we do as Jesus asked us, to love one another. Neither of these are easy tasks. We live 2000 years removes from Jesus’s earthly ministry, and to believe him is to believe in all he taught and asked of us. It is to ask us to believe that he is God; that he died for us (and so we are worth dying for); that he came back to life after death; that he institued the Church to safeguard this new Truth; and that he gave us his very self, in the form of bread and wine, as food for our earthly journey. It demands a faith. But not faith alone, but faith paired with love for others. It demands a faith paired with the fruits of that faith, good works. To grow in that faith is hard and difficult. It requires us to find time to consioucly grow in our faith: to read God’s Word and reflect on it; to pray to God both in asking and in thanking; and to contemplate on the Lord himself. Faith is not something that can ‘just happen’ – it requires movement and action on our part in our relationship with God. We cannot believe passively.
Today’s 2nd reading, then, gives us much to think on what it is to be a Catholic. It asks us to consider the three pillars of our faith: Love, Reason and Faith. Since the early church, faith, reason and love have been at the heart of the Church, and remain so. It is by taking the time to contemplate these things that we grow deeper in our belief, and we grow more certain in out knowledge that “Whoever keeps his commandments lives in God and God lives in him. We know that he lives in us by the Spirit that he has given us”.