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Love Is the Final Fight

First Reading: 1 John 2:3-11

Beloved:
The way we may be sure that we know Jesus
is to keep his commandments.
Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not keep his commandments
is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
But whoever keeps his word,
the love of God is truly perfected in him.
This is the way we may know that we are in union with him:
whoever claims to abide in him ought to walk just as he walked.

Beloved, I am writing no new commandment to you
but an old commandment that you had from the beginning.
The old commandment is the word that you have heard.
And yet I do write a new commandment to you,
which holds true in him and among you,
for the darkness is passing away,
and the true light is already shining.
Whoever says he is in the light,
yet hates his brother, is still in the darkness.
Whoever loves his brother remains in the light,
and there is nothing in him to cause a fall.
Whoever hates his brother is in darkness;
he walks in darkness
and does not know where he is going
because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 96:1-2A, 2B-3, 5B-6

R. (11a) Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice!
Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD; bless his name.
R. Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice!
Announce his salvation, day after day.
Tell his glory among the nations;
among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.
R. Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice!
The LORD made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty go before him;
praise and grandeur are in his sanctuary.
R. Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice!

Gospel: Luke 2:22-35

When the days were completed for their purification
according to the law of Moses,
the parents of Jesus took him up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord,
just as it is written in the law of the Lord,
Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,
and to offer the sacrifice of
a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,
in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.
This man was righteous and devout,
awaiting the consolation of Israel,
and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit
that he should not see death
before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.
He came in the Spirit into the temple;
and when the parents brought in the child Jesus
to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,
he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:

“Lord, now let your servant go in peace;
your word has been fulfilled:
my own eyes have seen the salvation
which you prepared in the sight of every people,
a light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
“Behold, this child is destined
for the fall and rise of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be contradicted
(and you yourself a sword will pierce)
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

NAB

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A great leader and civil rights activist, Dr. John Perkins, once said “love is the final fight.” I have to think that this is the essence of what Saint John is telling us in the First Reading today. Whoever loves his brother remains in the light, and there is nothing in him to cause a fall. 

Really? Nothing left to cause a fall? So that’s it then. The final word is love, just like Dorothy Day told us all those years ago. If we can simply love one another, if we can love those who are different than us in the same way we love those who are like us, there would be nothing left to keep us falling. Whoever says she’s in the light but hates her brother or sister is still in the darkness. It sounds so simple. So why is it the hardest thing on earth to do?

If there’s one thing our world is in desperate need of, it’s a little New Testament 101. We ALL have to learn to love our neighbor, to love those who are different than us, those who feel “other” and see the world differently. And love isn’t a warm, fluffy sentiment: it’s active. Love is listening to one another in humility and respect, love is believing the best about each other even when we disagree. Love is being open to having our minds changed when we hear someone else’s perspective.

When Simeon took the Christ Child in his arms and prophesied to His Mother, he declared that “the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” In today’s world, the thoughts of our hearts are being revealed in how we treat one another. May we, as Christians, invite Jesus Christ to transform the darkest places in our hearts into the light as they are revealed. And we already know how He will do it: in the very place that light dwells. In love for our neighbor.

What prayers are on your heart for those around you? For those you agree with and those you disagree with?

Shannon Evans is a Protestant missionary turned Catholic convert who lived to tell the tale. An adoptive and biological mom of three boys, she enjoys hosing mud off children, scrubbing sticky furniture, and rushing to the ER to have nails extracted from small intestines. You can find out more about her here.

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