Daily Reflection
January 10th, 2002
John O'Keefe
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1 John 4:19--5:4
Psalm 72:1-2, 14-15, 17
Luke 4:14-22

Many years ago a wise person once told me that we become what we do.  By this he meant that there is a deep connection between our actions and the kind of person that we actually become. At the time I heard this I was volunteering at Covenant House, a shelter for runaway kids, many of whom were involved in prostitution.  In the beginning they could distinguish who they were from what they were doing, but, given enough time, the actions always determined the person.

This seems to be what the author of 1 John had in mind in today’s reading.  We can not love God while hating each other. The surest sign that we love God is love of our brothers and sisters and keeping the commandments.  If we profess to love God while neglecting the other, we are, as the text says starkly, “liars.”  In other words, we become what we do.  If we hate, we are haters, not matter what we say.

Yet, it is easy for thoughts such as these to appear abstract and detached from reality.  How often we hear from the Bible or from the pulpit that we must love each other! How often we miss the opportunity to do so.  Part of the reason for this, I think, is that the injunction to “love one another,” even when coupled with the correlating “or you will not love God,” is remarkably void of content and, because of this, easy to dismiss. 

Thank God for the Palmist and for Luke.  The former writes, stirringly, “from fraud and violence he shall redeem to poor,” and the latter has Jesus standing up proclaiming glad tidings to the same.  We are also reminded that Jesus’ proclamation includes “liberty to the captives, sight for the blind, release to prisoners,” and, one might add, freedom for teenage prostitutes at Covenant House.  If Luke had read 1 John he probably would have said, ok, but make sure you understand who your brothers and sisters are — the poor, the captive, and the blind.  Go love them!

It is a comfort and a blessing to remember that these commands are “not a burden” but powerful enough to conquer to world. Such is “this faith of ours.”  May his name be blessed forever.

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