Reading (1 John 5:5-13) Gospel (St. Mark 1:7-11)
In the first reading today, Saint John tells us about Who Jesus is, and he speaks in language that sometimes is a little difficult to understand. He tells us that Jesus came, not by water alone, but by water and by blood; and therefore, he tells us that there are three who testify, that is, the Spirit, the water, and the blood. Now we ask ourselves: Just exactly what does that mean? The Spirit is pretty evident; that is the Holy Spirit. The water is the divinity of Christ, or the grace of God, the very life of Christ Himself. And the blood, of course, is His humanity. He is both God and man, and He is possessed of the Holy Spirit. Consequently, we have all three of those present.
Saint John goes on, then, to tell us that God gave testimony to His own Son. That is precisely what we heard in the Gospel reading today, that when the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus, the voice of the Father was heard: You are My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased. Saint John then goes on to say that anyone who refuses to believe in Jesus makes God the Father a liar because it is God the Father Himself Who has testified on His own Son’s behalf, and if we refuse to accept the testimony of God, then what we are saying is that God has given false testimony, in other words, that He is a liar.
Now what is the result of our acceptance of Christ? Saint John tells us that He came for one purpose–that is, to give us eternal life–and if we believe in the name of the Son of God, we have life within us. We, therefore, who are by nature blood (that is, human) now have a share in that water, that divinity, the grace of Christ. Remember that Jesus, in Saint John’s Gospel, talks about the rivers of water that will come up from the heart of those who believe. He talks to the Samaritan woman about water: If you knew Who you were talking to, you would ask Him for water and He would give you living water so you would never thirst again. He is talking here about grace, about the Holy Spirit. Those who are baptized into Christ share His life. They also share His Spirit. So He Who is God by nature, He Who is divine, became human so that we who are human by nature could become divine, that we share in the divine nature, that we share in the divine life, that we share in the gift of the Holy Spirit, and therefore we have eternal life. That is what Saint John is getting at.
Again, to believe in the name of the Son of God does not just simply mean to say we believe that Jesus is God. Remember, as Saint James says, Even the demons believe, and they tremble. It is not enough to say, “Yes, I believe Jesus is God.” It means to believe every single thing about Him and to act upon it, to live it – and we can. We have the grace of God; we have the Holy Spirit; we have everything we need to be able to live holy lives. It is now a matter of putting it into practice. And the result of living that life and practicing it is going to be eternal life.
So if we live the life of Christ in this world, a life which is both human and divine, inspired and led by the Holy Spirit, then we are going to have life within for eternity. If, on the other hand, we choose not to live according to this life of Christ, but rather to live a worldly life–and remember that Saint John begins the reading today by saying, Who is the one who is victorious over the world? The one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God–so if we choose to live a worldly life, to reject the divine life that we have been given, to reject the Holy Spirit, then we have chosen the unholy spirit, we have chosen a worldly life, a temporal life. Therefore, we will share life in hell with Satan for eternity. Those are the two possibilities, the two options.
God has given us absolutely everything to be able to achieve the goal for which we are created, and that is eternal life, because we who are born of blood only have now been reborn according to water and the Spirit, the grace of God and the Holy Spirit, so that we can believe in Jesus Christ in Whom we are members. And living the life of Christ, we have therefore the very gift which He came to give us: forgiveness of sin and eternal life.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.