Reading (1 John 2:29-3:6)†† Gospel (St. John 1:29-34)
In the first reading today, Saint John says a couple of things that could be very disheartening for us, because he tells us, number one, that everyone who acts in righteousness is begotten by God, and then goes on to say that anyone who sins has never seen the Lord nor known Him because no one who remains in Him commits sin. Well, if we look at that, we realize that we are all pretty much implicated immediately because we are all sinners and we do not always act in righteousness. So what exactly is he saying, that we have no concept of Our Lord? No. What he is saying is that if we truly knew Him we would change our lives. If we knew Him perfectly, we would not do the things that we do.
Now that is what the spiritual life is all about: coming to know the Lord more perfectly. It is being conformed to Christ. In so doing, we become more and more righteous, more perfect; and, in that way, sin is rooted out of our lives. So have we known Him? Not in the fullness of Who He is, not in the fullness of Who we could know Him to be. If you think about it on a human level, it is the same thing. You can know somebody, you can be friends with that person, but it is only over time that the person is revealing more and more of himself or herself to you. You come to know the person more and more as you spend time with them. It is the same with Our Lord. The more we spend time with Him and the more we get to know Him, the more He reveals Himself to us.
Saint John the Baptist tells us that the very reason he came baptizing was to reveal Christ to Israel. Saint Johnís baptism was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin. In other words, in order to know Him more, we have to get rid of sin. For Him to be revealed more fully to us, the sin has to go. And so it is all working together. We do not know Him completely. In other words, as long as we are still sinning, there is still darkness in our mind and there is still weakness in the will; we are clouded, to differing degrees. One who is steeped in mortal sin, for instance, cannot see clearly at all. One who has venial sins has some cloudiness that stands between that person and the Lord. There is a much clearer view of Christ if one has venial sins instead of mortal sins, yet, at the same time, there is still a veil, there is still a fog between. The more we get rid of the venial sins in our lives, the more the fog lifts and the more clearly we are able to see.
If that is the case, then, we can also understand what Saint John is talking about when he says that the reason the world does not know us is it does not know Him. Well, if we cannot even see Him clearly because of our sinfulness, what are the worldly types going to be able to do? They are completely steeped in the things that this world has to offer, which are all pretty unfortunate, and if we consider the principle I just mentionedĖone who is in the state of mortal sin cannot see clearly at allĖif we without mortal sin (so we hope and trust) cannot see clearly, if we without mortal sin still have some fogginess there that separates us from Christ, then how can one who is walking in total darkness be able to recognize the Lord? They cannot. And so the more we are conformed to Christ, the less we are going to be recognized.
That is why it is so incumbent upon us to make sure we are not trying to march according to the ways of the world. If we want to fit in with the world then we are not being conformed to Christ. It is just that simple. We need to ask ourselves: Where is eternity going to be spent? It is not going to be spent in this world. It is going to be spent in heaven by those who have chosen Christ and have chosen to become like Him. Saint John says, What we will be has not yet been revealed, but when it is revealed we will see Him as He is because we will be like Him. If that is the case, we need to start working on being like Him. That means we will be rejected by the world, we will not be recognized, and we will not be understood. We need to see that that is a gift, and we need to praise God for that.
Again, put it into context. Saint John the Baptist, who was a man who had Original Sin removed while he was in his motherís womb and was exceedingly righteous and penitential out in the desert, admits that he did not recognize Christ until the Holy Spirit descended upon Him. So it is not an easy thing to be able to recognize the fullness of Who He is, yet we are invited into that mystery and we should be drawn into that mystery. But that happens only in prayer. So that is what we have to be about. The conformity to Christ takes place in the spiritual life, in the depths of our heart united with the depths of His heart. The more we are united to Him, the less we sin and the more He is revealed in our lives. And the more He is revealed in us, the less we will be recognized by the world.†
If we look at our own lives, again, we just ask, ďAm I liked by the worldly types? Do I fit in with them? Or do they think that Iím a little odd? Do they give me grief? Do they reject me?Ē It is that simple to look at. To whom do we wish to be conformed? There are only a couple of choices. We can posit all the different forms of how we can be worldly, but it is all worldly. So it is either to be like Christ, or it is not to be like Christ. If it is not to be like Christ then it is Antichrist and the spirit of Satan. Who do we want to be like? The choice is ours. If we want to be like Him and we want to be with Him forever then we need to be like Him in this world. And if we are going to be like Him in this world, it means to be righteous in the way that we act and to remove sin from our lives.
*† This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.†††††††