2 January – First Reading

Commentary on 1 John 2:22-28

We continue today with the ‘fourth condition’ for ‘walking in the light’, which continues the warnings about the Antichrist and false teachers in the community. In today’s text, an “antichrist” is defined as someone who denies that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ. The antichrist is a “liar”; he is totally opposed to Jesus Christ, who is the Truth. “I am the Way; I am Truth and Life.”

To deny the identity of the Son is also to deny the Father and, similarly, to acknowledge the Son is to acknowledge the Father. This comment seems to refer to the Gnostic Cerinthus. He taught that the Son of God entered the man Jesus only at his baptism and left before the Passion. But Jesus emphatically affirms elsewhere, “I and the Father are one”.

“You do not need anyone to teach you.” This needs to be properly understood. Since the Bible constantly advocates teaching (Matt 28:20; 1 Cor 12:28; Eph 4:11; Col 3:16; 1 Tim 4:11; 2 Tim 2:2,24), John is certainly not ruling out human teachers and in fact he refers to them (“what you heard in the beginning”). At the time when he wrote, Gnostic teachers were insisting that the teaching of the apostles needed to be supplemented with the “higher knowledge” that the Gnostics claimed to possess.

What John is saying is that the teaching that the Christians have received from their Spirit-guided teachers is not only enough, but is the only reliable source of the true message. The author appeals to his readers to remain faithful to the teaching they heard from the beginning and not to be led astray. And it is not enough, just to have heard the teaching or to know its content (for the Gnostics, knowledge was everything). The message of the teaching has to be totally assimilated so that it becomes part of my whole life – my words, actions, relationships. As Paul said to the Galatians 2:20: “I live. No, it is not I but Christ lives in me.” Through this assimilation I become a “new” person.

The promise being given is that of eternal life. And, that life is not just at some future time, but begins immediately we attach ourselves to Jesus and his Way. Using a favourite expression, the writer of the letter says, “You…will remain in the Son and in the Father”, and that is the source of the life to be experienced here and now.

Through that union with Son and Father, one is “anointed” by the Holy Spirit who helps us to understand all we need to know to live the life that Jesus proposes to us. It is for us to “remain” in him, and then and only then will we be ready when he comes to call us to himself.

So that when he appears we may be fearless and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.

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