The following is the text of a homily given to the Cor Jesu Young Adult Group at St. John the Baptist Church, Fort Wayne, on Jan. 8.
Every year during the Christmas season, the entirety of St. John’s first letter is read at the liturgy, beginning on Dec. 27 and ending on the Saturday after the Epiphany. In a marvelous way, First John unfolds the mystery of the Word made flesh and reveals to us what we are to become as the children of God.
Today is Wednesday after the Epiphany, and we heard part of the fourth chapter of this letter of St. John. A major theme of the letter is that a genuine Christian life must be a life of love — love for God and for one another. It is not enough that we say that we love God: We must demonstrate this love through real and concrete action toward our brothers and sisters. What is foundational, however, is St. John’s teaching that this love originates in God, that “God is love.” God not only shows love; God is love. As the Catechism says: “God’s very being is love. By sending his only Son and the Spirit of love in the fullness of time, God has revealed his innermost secret” (CCC 221).
This gets to the greatest and most unique truth of our Christian faith, namely that there is one God in three Persons. The Trinity is the center of our Christian faith and life. God is not some static deity who manufactures a world unrelated to Him. The God revealed to us in Jesus Christ, the God we believe in as Christians, is a continual gift-giving between Persons united in love. God is a Love so powerful that, while Three, He is utterly One.
In His inner life, God is a communion of love. God the Father holds nothing of Himself back from the Son, whom He loves; and the Son holds nothing of Himself back from the Father. The Holy Spirit is the seal and the fruit of this love. This is the mystery of the Holy Trinity. God is love! This is God’s innermost secret that He has revealed to us. It’s pretty astounding. St. Augustine once expressed in a homily how astounding this is. He said: “If nothing at all were said in the other pages of the scriptures, and this were the one and only thing that we heard from the voice of the Spirit of God, that God is love, we wouldn’t have to look for anything else.”
Now, besides talking about this astounding mystery about God’s inner life, which surpasses our complete understanding, there’s something else that is astounding. God revealed Himself, His being as Love, to us, by sending us His Son, by becoming one of us (the Incarnation). Why? Not only to reveal Himself to us so that we know who He is in His innermost life, but in order to share that life with us. As we heard in our reading today: “In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him.” He did this out of love for us. As today’s reading also says, “God sent His Son as expiation for our sins.” He sent us His Son to take away our sins. Jesus came to reconcile us to the Father and to bring us eternal life. Jesus offered Himself to the Father out of love for us so that we might become His friends.
The Christian faith is pretty shocking, if you think about it — this magnificent plan of God to share His life of love with us. God opens His heart to us and invites us to share in His own divine life. He did this by taking on our flesh. In Jesus, God bound Himself to us in love. He established a new and eternal covenant with humankind through Jesus Christ. This is an incredible gift. God shares His life of communion with us. He has not only had mercy on us, He has welcomed us into His life, eternal life.
God, who is a Trinity, has destined us to share in His own eternal life of love. We long for this, because, remember, we were created in the image and likeness of God, of the Trinity. So we have this longing for love, for communion, for covenant, for friendship, deep within us. That longing is only fulfilled in God, though we get a taste of it in our experiences of human love. Sin often gets in the way, however. The commandments to love God and to love one another as Christ loved us are the greatest. It’s when we love one another, St. John says, that God remains in us, and His love is brought to perfection in us.
It is important also for us to realize that this communion of love with God is a gift not only to us in isolation as individuals. It is given to all of us together. Jesus Himself instituted a communion of fellowship that we call the Church. The Second Vatican Council taught that the Church is “a people brought into unity from the unity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Though the Church, you and I, are still imperfect in love, we are gathered together by God to live in His love and to bring His love to others. There’s so much division, discord, hate, violence, etc. in the world. Our mission is to mirror the love of God in the world. In other words, to proclaim and live the Gospel. We are to serve Christ’s work of redemption. This is what the Holy Spirit equips us to do.
I remember a great question Pope Benedict asked the young people at the night vigil in Sydney, Australia, at World Youth Day. I’ll never forget the beautiful dark skies and stars and the hundreds of thousands of youth carrying candles, and the pope asking them: “Friends, do you accept being drawn into God’s Trinitarian life? Do you accept being drawn into His communion of love?” I think they are the ultimate questions. When we say yes to those questions, our lives change. We enter into God’s freedom. We allow God’s threefold Love to give form to our lives. We follow along the humble path of Jesus, the way of the cross, the path to glory. We live in God’s life. We live in the Eucharist. There’s nothing more beautiful.
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