Saturday, January 04, 2014

The Devil You Don't Know

Now that we are past the Christmas octave, but still in the (very short!) Christmas season, the readings at Mass have done a sharp turn. No more stable or shepherds or manger. The first reading leapfrogs into the early Christian community, with all its controversies--and the Gospels show the first steps of the public life of Jesus, but from the unique perspective of John (not the matched set of the Synoptics). Since the first readings are from the First Letter of John, we are getting a strong dose of the Johannine mind this week, and it's not always easy.

Yesterday, for example, John went on (and on) about "those who act in righteousness." These, he says, are the children of God, and that righteous behavior is the proof. Today there more of the same, though the Devil gets his due: "Whoever sins belongs to the Devil, because the Devil has sinned from the beginning. Indeed, the Son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the Devil." But John's understanding of "sin" is not what we might assume at first. John is not talking about any naughty behaviors, or even commandment-breaking stuff. Only at the end of today's first reading do we realize that for John, "sin" is chiefly a matter not of what you do but of what you don't do. John is primarily concerned about sins of omission, and he names the two big ones:
No one who fails to act in righteousness belongs to God,nor anyone who does not love his brother.
There's enough there to keep us reflecting clear through to Lent!

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