6th day in the Octave of Christmas – First Reading

Commentary on 1 John 2:12-17

Following yesterday’s discussion mentioning the four conditions for ‘walking in the light’ in the first part of John’s Letter (1:5 – 2:28), today’s reading focuses on the third condition: ‘detachment from the world’.

The writer reminds his readers that their sins have been forgiven through the name of Jesus. And he addresses his words to the different generations in families – to the fathers, the young, the children and the parents. In various ways he says basically the same thing: they have come to know Jesus, “who is from the beginning”, and the Father. And, he says, they have “conquered the evil one”, who is not, however, as in the Gnostic way of thinking, to be identified with the material world. He is rather the Source of Darkness who leads people away from the Light that is Life.

At the same time, but not in a Gnostic sense, the author tells us not to love the ‘world’ or what is in the ‘world’. The word ‘world’ has two meanings in John’s writing. On the one hand, it can refer simply to the material environment in which we find ourselves and includes everything on our planet and in the whole universe. In other words, it refers to God’s creation which the Creator found “very good”:

God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. (Gen 1:31)

We are called by the Gospel to be very much part of that world, to be fully inserted into it:

You are the salt of the earth… (Matthew 5:13)

And indeed we are an integral part of the earth: we come from it and at the end we go back to it:

By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread
until you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.
(Gen 3:19)

On the other hand, ‘world’ also refers to all that thinking among people which is far from the thinking of God, as presented to us by revelation and especially through the witness of Jesus the Word. So, in this sense, we speak negatively of people being ‘worldly’:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world…

By embracing those things which are in conflict with the vision of God, we close ourselves to his love for us. This is the ‘world’ from which we must be detached.

These ‘worldly’ inclinations are summed up in the letter as:

…for all that is in the world — the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches — comes not from the Father but from the world.

“Desire of the flesh” includes not only sexual indulgence, but every form of uncontrolled physical gratification. “Desire of the eyes” includes all forms of greed and envy for what others have. “Pride in riches” points to all forms of arrogance or ostentation in one’s lifestyle where people put themselves as the centre of attention with little regard for the needs of others.

These three tendencies refer to the uncontrolled sensuality by which oneself and other people are reduced to mere objects of pleasure, to the uncontrolled greed to have everything one lays one’s eyes on (what today often comes under the term ‘materialistic consumerism’), and to an uninhibited desire for personal wealth and the power over others that goes with it.

These are all in total contradiction to the vision of the Kingdom where the over-riding passion is to find one’s happiness in the well-being of others, in living one’s life with only what is really necessary, and with the desire to create a world of sharing, where everyone gives and everyone gets. As the passage concludes:

…the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God abide forever.

Comments Off on 6th day in the Octave of Christmas – First Reading

Printed from LivingSpace - part of Sacred Space
Copyright © 2024 Sacred Space :: www.sacredspace.com :: All rights reserved.