This blog follows the daily bible readings of the Catholic Church
Reading 1, 1 John 2:12-17
12 I am writing to you, children, because your sins have been forgiven through his name.
13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you have come to know the One who has existed since the beginning. I am writing to you, young people, because you have overcome the Evil One.
14 I have written to you, children, because you have come to know the Father.
I have written to you, parents, because you have come to know the One who has existed since the beginning.
I have written to you, young people, because you are strong, and God’s word remains in you, and you have overcome the Evil One.
15 Do not love the world or what is in the world. If anyone does love the world, the love of the Father finds no place in him, 16 because everything there is in the world — disordered bodily desires, disordered desires of the eyes, pride in possession — is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world, with all its disordered desires, is passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains for ever.
We come to know God in the different stages of our lives-children understand God’s forgiveness through the forgiveness of their parents; parents understand the eternal parenting of God through their own parenting; young people understand the battle of God against evil through their own battles. This maintains the strong tradition of the Bible which speaks of God in human terms, by analogy. Because we are made in the image and likeness of God we can use human experience to understand God (what other experience could we use?) provided we recognise that, for example, parental love is even at its best an inadequate reflection of God’s love.
Verse 15 is problematic. Does it not contradict John 3:16? (“For God so loved the world…”) If God loved the world, why should we not love it also? The answer seems to be a difference of vocabulary. In the Gospel of John, the world is made by God, the light illuminates every person who comes into the world, God loves the world so much he gives his only son, not to condemn the world but to save it. In the letters of John “world” has become almost a synonym for “evil.” This identification of the world with evil became problematic in later theology which denied that the world was created by the God and Father of Jesus Christ and asserted that it and all material things were made by an inferior divine agent. That’s clearly a heresy, whereas 1 John can be seen as simply pessimistic about a world closed to God. Maybe we need some of that pessimism today: to recognise the disordered nature of the desires of the flesh and the eyes and the pride of possession rather than taking the over-optimistic view common in our culture. I think we do need it, yet I’d still want to argue with verse 1. For me, faithfulness to scripture involves argument with it!
Gospel, Luke 2:36-40
36 There was a prophetess, too, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well on in years. Her days of girlhood over, she had been married for seven years 37 before becoming a widow. She was now eighty-four years old and never left the Temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayer. 38 She came up just at that moment and began to praise God; and she spoke of the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem. 39 When they had done everything the Law of the Lord required, they went back to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And as the child grew to maturity, he was filled with wisdom; and God’s favour was with him.
Luke recognises the place of women in the purposes of God, indeed his stories of the birth of Jesus almost sideline men, whose role is confined to supporting the women! The song of Symeon is balanced by the prophecy of Anna who sees Jesus as the awaited Messiah. He will free Jerusalem from foreign domination. It’s good to note Luke’s ironical use of Jewish religious vocabulary: in his Gospel “deliverance of Jerusalem” will come to mean something very different from usual messianic expectation; and “When they had done everything the Law required” signals not only parental diligence but the turning of the ages from law to gospel, from promise to fulfilment in Jesus, whose story is now to be told.
“As the child grew..” -Just as Jesus had to learn to walk, so he had to learn how to love God and his neighbour. He didn’t have a Son- of- God implant in his brain which enabled him to do things without learning them.
WARNING: From Saturday 1st January, this blog will be based on the readings of the Revised Common Lectionary as used by the Episcopal Church. Many thanks to the Roman Catholic Church for the daily readings for Mass which I’ve used this last year.