Saturday after Epiphany

1Jn 5:14-21; Ps 149:1-6,9; Jn 3:22-30

Why does the LORD take delight in his people?  Why does the LORD take delight in us?  Saint Paul tells us why, because we were made for the glory of God.  He tells it like it is; we were made for the praise of God’s glory.  As Saint Irenaeus explains it, the glory of God is man fully alive.  This is our dignity, and this is God’s delight.  We sing to the LORD a song that has never been heard before, a song that arises out of a new heart, a heart made new in his grace and mercy.  Like Israel of old we are glad in the LORD our maker and our king.  We praise his name with festive dance, at the wedding feast of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  We sing to him with every musical instrument because the LORD loves his people and he adorns the lowly with great victory.  All the faithful exult in glory.  All the redeemed sing for joy.  Indeed, the high praises of God are in our throats and we are breathless with rejoicing.  Such is the glory for which we were made.  This alone is worthy of our self-sacrifice, of our solitude, of our human dignity, of our keeping ourselves pure in his sight.  In the midst of such worship we have the confidence about which Saint John writes, we ask for anything according to his will and he hears us. When this kind of dignity is ours we too long that Christ increases and we decrease.  Such is the full measure of glory we receive when we are truly empty of sin and self.

For what could we possibly ask that he would not hear us? We have so much to learn about prayer. We do not pray to change God’s plan—it is the best possible plan.  We do not pray to change others—we do not know their deepest strength or weakness. We do not pray to change reality—it does not belong to us.  We pray only, “Hallowed be Thy Name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done…” This prayer comes from the Lord Jesus himself.  If anyone knew how to pray, if anyone can teach us about conversation with the Father, in the Spirit, it is The Divine Teacher.  Saint John builds upon this teaching of the Master when he admonishes us to pray for our brothers and sisters who are in sin, not deadly sin. Deadly sin separates us from God. All other sin keeps us at a distance. Only those who are close to the LORD will live in the truth.  Only those who are close to the LORD will be safe from idols.  Indeed our Father protects us from the power of the Evil One because we have been born of the Holy Spirit and in Baptism.  We are his true children and we have eternal life in him. Sin is not our delight because sin is death or distance from the only one that delights us who has made us for the praise of his glory.

The only time our joy is made complete is when we decrease. This is the wisdom of the prophet John. The Baptizer saw himself as the friend of the bridegroom and when he hears the voice of that bridegroom he rejoices greatly.  In the Gospel of Saint John there is no conflict or question about who is who. The Lord Jesus knows who he is, and John the Baptist knows who he is.  Their disciples had disputes with each other and with the other Jews about ceremonial washings and many other things, but the Lord Jesus and his precursor had no conflict.  If we are growing in the Holy Spirit we come to the gradual and liberating awareness that we are the Bride of Christ, the Church and the friends of the bridegroom, who must decrease.  Our relationship with Christ in the Holy Spirit and for the glory of the Father is both purgation and transforming union.  We must decrease in self-importance, and become more united with Christ.  This transformation does not happen easily or quickly, as we all know all too well. This transformation, however is not impossible and beyond our reach.  We have all the help, grace, mercy, and love we could need from the Father, in the Son, and by the Holy Spirit.  Indeed, this is the great adventure of a life of holiness, and this is the beginning of heaven on earth.