The first reading for today begins with the words, “Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you have had from the beginning; the old command-ment is the word that you have heard.” I think that we can recognize that old commandment as the “Law of Love”, found in our Prayer Book in a variant form as “The Summary of the Law”. Briefly, “Love God, and love our neighbor as ourselves.”
The prologue of the fourth Gospel sets before us our Lord Jesus Christ as the Word of God, the Word Incarnate. In his final discourse to his Twelve Apostles Jesus told them that he was giving them a new commandment; they were to love one another as he had loved them. (Jn 13:34, 15:12) Whether this is what the author of the First Letter of John meant or not, it seems to be a reminder of Jesus’ “new commandment” to the Disciples that they love one another. Following the comment in the First Letter of John that the new commandment “is true in him and in you,” it goes on to say, “because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining”. (1 Jn 2:8)
This leads us to the second theme found in our first reading, light and darkness. In the prologue of John’s Gospel we are introduced to Jesus as being life and light; “and the life was the light of all people…the light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (Jn 1:4-5)
On at least three occasions during his ministry Jesus referred to himself as “the light of the world”. The first of these occasions refers to Jesus stating his ministry in terms of light and darkness. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (Jn 8:12) The second was in the context of healing a man blind from birth. “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (9:5) The final time those words of Jesus were recorded was in a clear statement of his ministry coming from God the Father. “Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in him who sent me. …I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness.” (12:44-46)
In Chapter 3 of John’s Gospel we can find clear reference to that theme of light and darkness. “And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” (Jn 3:19-21)
At the end of the reading from the First Letter of John today we are given three concrete applications of being in the light or in the darkness. “Whoever says, ‘I am in the light,’ while hating a brother or sister, is still in the darkness. Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates another believer is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and does not know the way to go, because darkness has brought on blindness.” (1 Jn 2:9-11)
Hear Jesus call, “Come to the light.” Walk in the light and love God and one another! If you find it difficult to love anyone, then try to want to love them. Try to love them, and keep on trying to love them. God, our merciful Father, wants us to love one another. If we pray that we want to love someone who is difficult to love, try to love that person and God will give you grace and help to learn to love those who are difficult. Keep praying, and keep trying to love those whom you find difficult. It may not happen right away, but keep trying! Stay in the light, the true light who is Jesus Christ!
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