1Jn 2:18-21; Ps 96:1-2,11-13; Jn 1:1-18
It’s the seventh day of the Christmas Octave; it’s the Memorial of Saint Sylvester; it’s the last day of the secular calendar. There is much to celebrate even when celebrating may seem too much. We have all had our share of holiday parties and family gatherings, and still there’s tonight and tomorrow, days ripe for celebration. The Liturgy still sees this day as one of an octave of days in which the Nativity is the main note of our songs. Our Christmas carols are not quite packed away like another decoration. We still hear the Psalm 96 summon us to join the heavens and the earth in great rejoicing. Indeed, we sing a song that is new because we are born anew in this celebration of the Birth of the Eternal Son of God, born the Son of Mary. For he has come to rule the earth, all of creation rejoices, blesses, and announces his salvation day after day, not just for eight days but also for the endless day of eternity. The heavens, the earth, the sea, the plains, and all that is in them are joyful and praiseful. Even the trees of the forest exult with voices never before heard! We join all creation, far and near, to praise the One Who Comes, The LORD, who comes to rule the earth. “He shall rule the world with justice, and the peoples with his constancy.” This is the truly good news of the last day of the year. We have a King, The Lord Jesus Christ, and he rules as none of us could. He rules with absolute justice and complete constancy. Pope Saint Sylvester may have struggled with the Roman Emperor, but that was only because the Kingdom of God can never be fully and definitively manifest in any human government. The conflicts between Emperor Constantine and Pope Sylvester have been repeated throughout history as the Church strives to be faithful to the One True King, who is never the emperor, or the president, or the dictator, or any human leadership. In the first reading for today’s mass Saint John reminds all God’s Children that it is “the last hour” and in the gospel reading he reminds us that in the beginning was the Word. Every Eucharist brings together beginnings and endings. We are grasped by the LORD and ushered into the eternity prepared for us, and all his children. Can there be any better reason to celebrate again and yet again?
Why does Saint John warn his children in the faith that this is the last hour? Perhaps he was aware of the pain his church felt in the appearance of so many antichrists. Perhaps he was empathetic as his sons and daughters struggled with so many desertions. Perhaps both of these are the two sides of the same sword that was being thrust into the body of Christ. Saint John wanted his children to be ready for the pain of betrayal for they would suffer just as the Master had suffered. He wanted them to be so grounded in the truth that they knew when the voice of an antichrist was speaking. Saint John trusted that his spiritual children knew the Way, the Truth, the Life and would not go astray or take up company with the lie. Perhaps such a close-knit fellowship is an ancient model of church that we need to revive in our own time. Perhaps our father in Christ could be more present and supportive of our struggle if he used the most available technology to keep alive a discerning dialogue among the children of God who still live in the last days where antichrists abound and deserters are too often neighbors.
As the bright light of our Octave of Christmas begins to give way to Epiphany we hear again the gospel read during the Christmas Daytime Liturgy. In this prologue from the Gospel of Saint John we hear the simple and clear truth of the Christ, a welcome word for all who live day in and day out among the blather of the antichrists. Those, who claim that Christianity is by its nature too restrictive, and have come up with a more inclusive form of religion. These antichrists abound, and they have never really heard this Gospel. Saint John writes about the Eternal Word of God who is the only one who has something new and definitive to say about the mystery of God hidden in light unapproachable. This Word came out of the eternal silence of love. This Word takes on our human condition in order that we might be able to take on his divine condition. The Logos takes on human thought and language so that He can speak a word that we can hear and understand. To this Evangelist and all the Apostolic Church the Word lived and communicated in a manner that shed light upon the great mysteries of human existence. He gave us the dark light of faith so that we could become children of God. This was all his doing; The Word came out of silence and enables us to hear the voice of the Father speaking the truth we never could have figured out on our own. We are his beloved children; in us the LORD delights. The Father’s only-begotten Son, full of grace and truth has given us a share in his grace and truth. By our Baptism, Confirmation and every Holy Communion we are immersed in his saving grace and enlightened by his radiant truth. The end of our Christmas Season is coming fast, The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, but it is only the beginning of new life for all who have entered into the Octave and celebrated the truths of this season of grace. Only the One who has gazed eternally upon the Eternal Father can tell us what we need to know in order to fulfill his plan for his beloved children, created in his own image and likeness. Our Brother, the Lord Jesus Christ, leads us without regret and without hesitation to discover who God is, Abba, Loving Father, and who we are in relationship with God and with one another, brothers and sisters. Without this radical self-awareness and communal-identity we cannot be truly one; we cannot live in unity and peace. Living in this grace and truth alone will silence the lies of the antichrists. Living in this grace and truth alone will make the words of the Word of God loud enough for all to hear, in the silence of their hearts and in the chaos of their efforts at world-wide community.