The Faithful Soul Focuses on Christ
Reading (1 John 2:12-17) Gospel (St. Luke 2:36-40)
In the first reading this morning, Saint John tells us that we are not to love the world or the things of the world, and then goes on to tell us that if we love the world then the love of the Father is not to be found within us. So he is making a very clear dichotomy. Now, we have to be very clear also to make the right distinctions. God loves the world. He made the world and He loves the world. However, He is not interested in the things Saint John points out that come from the world, that is, the sensual lust, the enticements for the eye, a pretentious life. Anything which is sinful is clearly not of God. God does not love worldliness. He does not love selfishness. He does not love sinfulness. But He loves the world and the people in it. So, if we have a respect for the world around us, that is something which is perfectly fine. If we love the people around us, that is perfectly fine. But it is a matter of making sure we do not immerse ourselves into the worldliness around us. That is not an easy thing because in our society it is pretty difficult to be able to separate out all of these things. It is so lopsided that it is pretty hard to find where we can love the world in that generic sense without being touched by the rest of it and tainted by the rest of it, really. The infection is something which is very easy to allow in. We need to have the proper kind of charity, but we have to be very, very careful to keep the stuff that is not good away from us. And that is very difficult.
At the same time, the Church gives to us in the Gospel reading an example of somebody who was able to do this, and that is Anna, the prophetess who was in the temple day and night in prayer. She immersed herself in God, not in the world. She was willing to deny herself with prayer and fasting, praying day and night, and being in the temple with the Lord. We can see several things with this. First of all, we see how faithful she was to God. She was there day and night in the midst of a bad situation. That is, Judaism at the time that Anna was in the temple was not in good condition, but she knew what the truth was. She did not focus on all the corruption around her – she focused on God. She was in the temple of God and she was united with God. Even though the priests there were corrupt, even though there were lots of problems within, that is not what she was focused on; she was there for the Lord and she was praying. She was probably thought by the worldly types, who would come to the temple to make a pretentious offering, to be a crazy woman. After all, who is this woman who is fasting and is always here talking about God all the time? She must be a little bit nuts!
Yet you also, then, see in the Gospel reading how God blessed her. She understood who this Child was and she talked about the Child to anybody who was awaiting the redemption of Israel. And so they were able to hear Who this Child was. She understood because her focus was not on the worldliness but on God. Most people did not see Him. In fact, when they heard there was a Savior who was born to the world, they trembled with fear. They did not rejoice because God was born into the world because they were afraid He was going to come and take away their sinfulness and their worldliness. All there selfish pleasures, they were afraid He was going to remove, and they trembled with fear. We are told that Herod and all Jerusalem trembled with fear.
And so we see the reaction. If we want to immerse ourselves in worldliness, we do not really want God. We want Him there to the extent that it allows us to live a more pretentious life. It puts up a certain façade for us to hide behind, but we do not really want to live our lives for God because it [our life] is a life of empty show. We need to reject all of that: the sensuality, the selfishness, all of the enticements for the eye, the pretentious life; all these things that the world has to offer need to be rejected. It is rammed down our throats in this society and it is very difficult to be able to keep it away, but that is what we have to try to do. And the easiest way to do that is just to keep the focus on Jesus. Then we will have the same kind of blessing and reward that Anna had. We will not see the Savior of the world born because that happened 2,000 years ago, but we will have the blessing to be able to recognize Him present in the Blessed Sacrament. We will have the grace to be able to recognize Him working in the world. We will have the peace that will come because we are not focused on the corruption within or without. We are not going to be focused on the self and on the worldliness, but on Him. We will be able to live in this world but not be caught up in the things of the world. And we will be able to be at peace with God. That is what is being offered to us and it is a choice we have to make.
We know that there are the three areas of temptation: the world, the flesh, and the devil. Those must be rejected and we must choose Jesus Christ. Not, again, making an intellectual choice to say, “Oh, yes, I believe in Jesus – but I don’t want to live it! I want to be worldly while I acknowledge Jesus with my mind.” It does not work that way. We need to choose Jesus Christ with our hearts. We need to live Jesus Christ in our lives. And we need to keep our focus, then, solely on Christ, rejecting everything that will lead us away from Him and uniting ourselves with Him so that we will love the Father with the Son and the Holy Spirit, and we will be free from anything that will pull us away from God.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.