As we continue to celebrate Christmas, in the First Reading, John reminds us: Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world – the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches – comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever. If we love the world, we do not have the love of the Father.
What does it mean to love God? The Psalm tells us: Worship the Lord in holy splendor; tremble before him, all the earth. Say among the nations, “The Lord is king! The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved.” To love God is to worship him and to fear him. It is to proclaim him as Lord, who establishes the world. God is beyond the world, which is why we cannot love it. And those who love it, as John enumerates: the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches are not from God. When we give in to our passions, to our desires and to our pride, these lead us to desire the applause of men such that we will say things to tickle their ears. This displeases God.
The Gospel tells us Anna was of great age, eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. Her only desire in her old age is to worship God.
Christmas reminds us true worship is in recognizing God as God beyond and above all creation, above all our desires, above our passion, above our possession. And if we have been guilty of these, John tells us in the First Reading, your sins are forgiven on account of his name. There is forgiveness for this idolatry, when we turn to Jesus and ask for forgiveness.
This pandemic has stripped us of everything we have trusted. Yet, in the midst of these difficulties, John tells us: you have conquered the evil one. We do this, by what John said: because you know him who is from the beginning. We know him because you are strong and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. All the evils in us are conquered by knowing God and letting the Word of God live in us.
You may despair because the pandemic has affected you. You may have tried everything and yet, nothing came out of it. Yet, we hold on to God’s Word, that we must worship him in Spirit and Truth, we accept him as he is and let him take control of our lives. We turn back and repent of our sins, so we can be forgiven. For Catholics, we do this by truly repenting and going to confession. When we truly repent of our sins and have gone to confession, we know and are assured of God’s forgiveness, even if the guilt, and shame continue to hound us. Once we had been forgiven in confession, it has been forgiven. The guilt may be there but we know, we are forgiven. The healing may take awhile, but have confidence, God has forgiven you.
Lord, I surrender all I have to you. Take everything I own and use them for your glory. I repent of my sins, take away my shame and guilt. Take away my regrets and sense of futility and hopelessness. You are God who established the world. Let me not give in to my desires, to my passions and pride. Instead, let mt turn back to you and let you rule in my life.