1 John 3:11-21
USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John.
Jesus decided to go to Galilee, and he found Philip.
And Jesus said to him, “Follow me.”
Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the town of Andrew and Peter.
Philip found Nathanael and told him,
“We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law,
and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.”
But Nathanael said to him,
“Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him,
“Here is a true child of Israel.
There is no duplicity in him.”
Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”
Nathanael answered him,
“Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“Do you believe
because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree?
You will see greater things than this.”
And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
you will see the sky opened and the angels of God
ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
Good News Reflection: Stop condemning yourself
Are you harder on yourself than you should be? Are you slow to forgive yourself? Do you beat yourself up because of past sins and other failures? Self-condemnation steals our joy. And today’s first reading restores it by teaching us how to reassure our hearts when we feel guilty.
It says that we know that we’ve passed from death to life, from sinfulness to saintliness, from the devil’s domain to the kingdom of God, because of the love that we have for others. It isn’t perfect yet, but we can be sure that this love is genuine when it expresses itself in good deeds.
If there’s anyone whom you think you do not love (an ex-spouse perhaps?), consider this: Would you be willing to do a good deed for that person? (Praying for him or her counts as a good deed.) If so, you have love and you remain in Christ. God does not condemn you, and therefore neither should you.
The final part of this scripture holds a very important key to holiness: We have “confidence in God” if and when we allow ourselves to stop condemning ourselves. We must look at the truth about our core saintliness: The Holy Spirit dwells within us, and because of this we have an innate desire to be holy. Therefore, we belong to the truth, i.e., we belong to the Spirit of Truth. And if we belong to God’s Spirit, we have his supernatural ability to make holy decisions, even when we’re tempted to sin.
Sin is natural; saintliness is supernatural, but it’s our true nature because of our baptism. By looking at what’s good in us instead of focusing on our failures, we can gain confidence in our own ability to be saintly, because we know that it’s God who gives us that ability. And this makes it easier to recognize and rely on God’s help in being holy.
Jesus did not come to condemn the world, remember? He came to save us from sin and its destruction, and he came to redeem us from sin and transfigure us into saints. Those of us who want to be saints are never condemned by him, not even when we fall back into old sinful patterns. When we fail to live as the holy people that his Holy Spirit enables us to be, he isn’t happy, he’s not approving of what we do, and he asks us to “Go and sin no more.” But rather than condemn us, he helps us.
God’s love is never withheld; it’s never conditional, never based on how saintly we are. His love is based on his own perfect holiness. And his helpfulness is based on our needs and our willingness to be helped.
Refusing to forgive ourselves is the same as saying that God didn’t know what he was doing when Jesus was crucified. It’s saying that God should refuse to forgive us and that he’s stupid for loving us unconditionally. Now, doesn’t that sound ridiculous?
You are God’s beloved: Have confidence in his ability and his desire to help you live in the reality of your saintliness. This will empower you to birth Jesus more fully into the world by the way you live your life.
Master, You’ve known me forever. You know when I’m faithful and when I’m unfaithful. Despite my weaknesses, You still entrust me with the mission You’ve always planned for me. Thank You for Your faithfulness! Amen.
© 2018 by Terry A. Modica