We end the calendar year today. And the First Reading is very appropriate: It is the last hour! As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now, many antichrists have come. The word antichrist literally means enemies of Christ. John describes the enemies of Christ: they went out from us, but they did not belong to us… by going out they made it plain that none of them belongs to us. Who are these antichrists John describes? John describes these in verse 22 of the same letter: the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ – he is the liar, he is antichrist, The First Reading ends You have been anointed by the Holy One, and all of you have knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and you know that no lie comes from the truth. From this we can conclude that the enemies of Christ are those who claim to be believers and yet, deny the Truth that Jesus is Christ. What does it mean to say Jesus is Christ?
To say Jesus is Christ is to believe what the Gospel today tells us: the Word was with God and the Word was God, who became man so that to anyone who believes in him, he gave power to become children of God, born not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. God wants to adopt us as his children. But we need to respond to that will of God. We need to act like true children of God. This is the Truth of Jesus Christ, as taught by the Church. To believe is not only saying we believe in God, or going to mass on a regular basis, or claiming one has been baptized. To believe in Jesus is to claim him as the Christ, the Son of the Living God. If Jesus is God, then everything he says is Truth. That means, a person who claims to believe in Christ should assent to his teaching and obey them.
Many today twist the teaching of Jesus Christ, claiming salvation is from human activity, that it is acceptable to tolerate and encourage sin, that everyone goes to heaven therefore there is no need for repentance. These are the antichrists John refers to: enemies of Christ, because they proclaim a false gospel that leads others to continue in their sins towards their way to hell.
This year, we saw a pandemic that brought the world to its knees. Yet, the world still would not bow its heart to God, even as it was on its knees. And encouraged by antichrists, the world continues to spiral on its way to destruction. If the world does not repent, we will see something worse than this pandemic which will be the natural result of rebellion against God. Goes does not need to send us punishments. We will punish ourselves because the wages of sin is death. Unless we repent, unless the world repents, we will see more deaths, more restrictions in our lives, specifically, restrictions to worship without fear.
What can we do? We can repent, turn away from our sins, even if no one is doing it, even if our leaders are not doing it. In the end, it is not our leaders who will save us. It is Jesus Christ who will save us. And if we do not repent, we also are antichrists, enemies of Christ.
St Pope Sylvester fought against a major heresy of his time where only a few bishops believed in the Truth that Jesus is co-equal to the Father and eternal from the beginning. He was pope when the council of Nicea was convened and though he did not attend, he sent two representatives to attend on his behalf. In the end, the council declared the Truth, and condemned the Arian heresy.
Let the lessons of 2020 not go to waste. Let it lead us to believe in Jesus Christ, to seek the Light that conquers the darkness as we face the new year to come. We pray that we may receive grace upon grace as we turn to the God who dwells among us, to be with us always.
Lord Jesus, I bow my knees before you and accept you as my Christ. I believe you became man to give me the power to be children of God. I believe you can save me from my sins. So I turn to you and ask you to take away my sins. Change my heart, so I can pursue you passionately in the new year. Give me new life Lord, as I struggle to know you, through Word and Sacrament. St Sylvester, let me recognize the Truth so that I may know Jesus.