Saturday after Epiphany
1 John 5:14-21 + John 3:22-30
There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray.
On this last weekday of Christmastide before the season’s concluding with the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord, the Beloved Disciple in the First Reading tackles a challenging subject. What he states follows from what he has proclaimed in passages heard earlier in Christmastide. Yet he’s more specific here about the demands made of the Christian disciple.
St. John in his biblical writings repeatedly proclaims the Crucifixion of Jesus as God’s clearest revelation of His love for fallen man. In today’s First Reading, St. John declares that the disciple of Jesus must forgive sinners as Jesus did on the Cross. In St. John’s exposition, there are several specific points that deserve attention.
First, St. John proclaims that the Christian disciple ought to pray for a sinner, and that God “will give him life.” This makes clear that God wants Christians to intercede for others in prayer, contrary to what some of our separated brethren claim. Moreover, God specifically wants the Christian to intercede for a sinner. While St. John does not state here that the Christian’s intercessory prayer for a sinner will bring the sinner forgiveness, but rather “life”, the principle of a Christian interceding for another sinner is one of the principle underling the Sacrament of Confession.
Second, St. John very clearly distinguishes two types of sin based on the degree of severity. He states that there “is such a thing as deadly sin”, and shortly thereafter that “there is a sin that is not deadly.” These two types of sin correspond to the Church’s distinction between “mortal sin” and “venial sin”. Both types of sin can be forgiven through the Blood of Christ, but the forgiveness of “deadly sin” is reserved to the Church’s Sacrament of Reconciliation.