Thursday, December 28, 2006

Saint John

I tried to post yesterday, but blogger ate post and I didn't have time to rewrite everything. Okay so yesterday was the feast of St. John the apostle and evangelist. We hear from St. John in his letters and in his Gospel the admonition "Love one another."

So, what is St. John trying to tell us about being a Christian? Well, I think it has something to do with the difference between what we hear in the book of Tobit "Do not do unto others what you yourself dislike" and what we hear from Jesus "Do on to others as you would have other do unto you."

The first one is a negative prescription in that it reminds us of the limits we should place on our freedom so as to respect the rights and dignity of others. A good number of the precepts of the old testament were of this type, for example the ten commandments: "Do not put anything above God," "Do not steal," "Do not kill," etc.

The basic idea behind the negative prescription is to respect the rights and dignity of others. This concept of morality is seen even today when we hear people say "Well, if I don't hurt anyone else, then it is not wrong." Kant also advocated this kind of moral ethic: a formal morality that basically said do not harm others.

The problem with this kind of morality is not that it is in itself bad or no good, but rather that on its own it does not suffice. If one only goes about life looking to make sure that one does not infringe upon the rights of others, then it is quite possible to "be" very "good," and yet do nothing for others. After one has made sure that one does not do this and one does not do that, the question remains (to steal a line from "Young Frankenstein" - thanks Madeline Kahn) "What exactly is it that you do do?"

We see just this kind of attitude from the rich young man who comes to Jesus asking what it is he has to do to gain eternal life. Jesus says, "you know the commandments." The rich young man says, "I've kept them all from my youth." And Jesus, looks at him with love and calls him to something more, "If you wish to be perfect, sell everything, give to the poor, and follow me."

I used to hear the golden rule "Do unto others..." invoked when I was young, but normally it was a scolding to not do something bad to others. Yet, if we look at the golden rule again in the light of calling Christians to a morality that is more than just a respecting of rules and a respecting of the rights of others, but rather a morality that is proactive, then it becomes something challenging, something which calls the Christian to follow Christ, to Love others as He has loved us.

This then reminds us of what we hear in the Gospel of St. John when Jesus gives us the "new" commandment: "Love one another as I have loved you." If we think of doing unto others in reard to how Christ loved us, then it means we are called to love as Christ loves: heal the sick, visit the estranged and the shut ins, call to conversion for the good of the other (not as a power trip), praying for the living and the dead, give food to the hungry - pick an act of mercy be it spiritual or corporal. Truly this way of proactive love is the same thing that Jesus said when he said "You shall love the Lord your God and your neighbor as yourself." To "love" means precisely to give of oneself, even to make a gift of oneself.

In this sense Christians are not called just to follow a bunch of "do not's," but rather a bunch of "do's," which give meaning and sense to the "do not's." Do love God (and if one opens oneself to accept His gift of love this is not hard to do - Caritas Christi urget nos - it is as if God's love makes us inclined to love the great Giver). Do love your neighbor (again God's love is hard to be contained in the life of just one person - Caritas Christi urget nos - if we let God love us we'll want to share it with others). Do love yourself (again here God's love is a key since it brings healing mercy and truth to stop the self hatred that comes from the lies we believe about ourselves and which have been reenforced through sin).

So, for the Feast of St. John, don't forget; do love. In this way you will treat others the way you want to be treated and love others as Christ loves you. God bless.

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