Tag Archives: Letter of John

Image of the Invisible God

There’s always a temptation to make God distant and abstract. After all, God dwells “in light inaccessible,” the scriptures say. God is beyond the eyes of our mind and body.

But God reveals himself in Jesus Christ, the “image of the invisible God.” The first followers of Jesus saw him with their own eyes and proclaimed that “the grace and kindness of our God has appeared” in him.

We’re reading from the 1st Letter of John, which was written as that first generation of  eyewitnesses to the gospel was passing on. The letter’s message to a new generation (and certainly to us too) is simple: believe in Jesus Christ. As eyewitnesses pass on and years go by, we’re tempted to forget or minimize his place in our world and in our lives.

John’s letter warns about the dangers of docetism and gnosticism, two heresies supporting that temptation. A note in the New American Bible describes what these strange sounding heresies are all about:

“The specific heresy described in this letter cannot be identified exactly, but it is a form of docetism or gnosticism; the former doctrine denied the humanity of Christ to insure that his divinity was untainted, and the latter viewed the appearance of Christ as a mere stepping-stone to higher knowledge of God.”

He came “through water and Blood,” John writes. He urges us not to forget the humanity of Jesus Christ, the humble way he became flesh and shared our experience as human beings. God comes to us that way too. He was baptized in the waters of the Jordan uniting all nations in journeying to God’s Kingdom. He died and shed his blood for us. Don’t forget the mystery of his death and resurrection.

“God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.”

Love for one another is an essential part of loving God:

Beloved, we love God because
he first loved us. 
If anyone says, “I love God,”
but hates his brother, he is a liar;
for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen 
cannot love God whom he has not seen. 
This is the commandment we have from him:
Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Love Remains

The First Letter of John, which we read this Sunday, says simply: “No one has ever seen God.” It’s true. God is  beyond what our eyes can see and our minds take in. God, the creator of heaven and earth, is everywhere. “In him we live and move and have our being.” But our eyes are too weak to see him; our minds too small to know him. We only know God in our limited way.

But we can know God, John reminds us. We know God by love, particularly by loving one another.

“If we love one another, God remains in us,

and his love is brought to perfection in us…

God is love, and whoever remains in love

remains in God and God in him.” (1 John 4, 11-16)

God is love and his love remains in us. The first place God’s love is seen is the world we live in. God’s love is in the air we breathe, the lives we enjoy, the friends, the families, the wives, the husbands, the children, the good things of the earth we’ve been given.

God is love, his love remains; it continues, and we thank God for a love so wonderfully faithful.

The greatest gift of God, the crowning sign of his love, is Jesus Christ, his Son and our Lord. As the Word of God, he’s also beyond what our eyes can see and our minds know. But the Word was made flesh and entered our world and became like us. Conceived in the womb of Mary, his mother, he was born and grew in wisdom and grace, at a certain time and place, like us. We have seen him.

He took the path we humans take, from birth to death. In a unique way, he knew our sorrows, our sufferings, our weakness and our pains. He knows our sinfulness.

His love remains. We can hear his faithful love expressed in today’s gospel. As Jesus raises his eyes to heaven, he prays for us; he guards us, he promises to lead us to where he is. Weak as we are, unsteady as our love is, sinful as those whom he ate with the night before he died, he remains with us.