St. John Neumann, Bishop
1 John 4:11-18 + Mark 6:45-52
January 5, 2022
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another.
Christmastide is a school of love, and the Beloved Disciple is its headmaster. While it might be argued that Eastertide is also such a school, there’s an important difference between these two seasons. During Eastertide the Church proclaims passages from St. John’s account of the Gospel. During Christmastide, however, the Church proclaims passages from his epistles, and these focus sharply upon the nature of love.
Yesterday’s First Reading proclaimed the nature of God’s love as revealed through the sacrifice of God the Father and God the Son on Calvary. Today’s First Reading extends that focus to love for one’s neighbor.
The Ten Commandments are of two types. The first three command us to love God. The latter seven command us to love our neighbor. For Christians, what unites these two types is the revelation of God’s love in the Crucifixion. From the Cross Jesus reveals how to love God and neighbor. It’s on the basis of that revelation that St. John explains: “if God so loved us, we also must love one another.”
However, there’s a danger here. We might take St. John’s words to mean that we’re called merely to imitate God’s love as shown to us on Calvary. But it’s impossible for a fallen human person to love as God love through one’s own natural power. A fallen human person can only imitate God’s love if God loves through the fallen human person. This is what St. John speaks to when he proclaims that “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.” Only when one abides in God’s love can one love as God loves.