Wednesday, December 28, 2016


Homily for December 29th, 2016: 1 John 2:3-11.

          “I am the light of the world,” Jesus says in John’s gospel (8:12). How dark the world would be without him. In baptism we were commissioned to be lenses and prisms of that light, shining from the face of Jesus Christ. In today’s first reading the apostle John tells us how we fulfill that commission. “Whoever loves his bother remains in the light . . . Whoever hates his brother is in darkness; he walks in darkness and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”

          To understand these words we need to know that the words “love” and “hate” here do not refer to feelings. They refer to our conduct. This becomes clear if we look at the words of Jesus himself in the parable of the sheep and the goats in chapter 25 of Matthew’s gospel. There Jesus says that when we come to stand before God in judgment, he won’t ask us how many prayers we’ve said, or how many Masses we have attended. He will ask instead how we have treated other people.

          To those on his right hand, designated as sheep in the story, the king (a stand-in for the Lord God) will say: “Come, you have my Father’s blessing! … For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, in prison and you come to me.” Astonished at these words, those on the king’s right hand ask when they had done all those things. To which the king responds: “As often as you did it for one of my least brothers, you did it for me.” 

Then, to those on his left hand, designated as goats in the story, the king says: “Out of my sight, you condemned, into that everlasting fire prepared for the devil and has angels!” To explain this harsh judgment the king tells those on his left that they have done none of those things. Conduct and not feelings is the standard by which both are judged.

          We pray then in this Mass that when the Lord sends his angel to call us home to Him, he will find us walking not in the shadows, but in light --  by doing good to those we encounter along life’s way.