Archive for July, 2012

Saint Bernadette and The Message of Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Lourdes-
“The Miracles at Lourdes continue until today to confront us with the message of Mary and the constant availability of God’s Healing and Forgiveness. The Spring is a reminder that the springs of “Living Water” are waiting for the people of the world, that they may come and “drink freely, without pay.” The burden of sin upon us will be lifted, its stain washed away.”


Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Warning: Lourdes

Lourdes: 1858

In 1854, Pius IX defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Four years later, Bernadette Soubirous, a fourteen-year-old girl whose family was the poorest in Lourdes, France, declared she had seen a Lady in the village dump, where she and two other girls had been gathering firewood. The vision had issued from the heart of a massive rock formation next to the river Gave, in a place called “Massabielle,” which literally means “old rock.” After several visits, the Lady asked Bernadette to return fifteen times, which she faithfully did, whereupon she and the whole world received a message and a gift. The message was simple and direct: “Repentance! Repentance! Repentance!”
The gift was a beautiful clear spring, coming forth from the base of the rock at a point where Bernadette had obediently dug with her bare hands in the mud, for the Lady had directed that she drink at The Spring. The waters soon displayed miraculous healing properties, and pilgrims began their journeys to Lourdes to bathe in the water and drink at The Spring. Ever since The Spring appeared, countless millions have found living waters at this spot where the Blessed Virgin spoke to a little girl of no account. When Bernadette at last asked the beautiful Lady who she was, the vision confessed, with awesome simplicity, “I am the Immaculate Conception!” Unburdened from sin from the beginning, she showed what the Lord wants for us at the end. Her battle is ours, a fight against sin. If we would only repent of our sins, the calamities that threaten the humans would never occur. There would be healing and peace that issues from the heart of God, like water from The Rock. Like Mary, we dwell within the “old rock” of the Church, the Rock of Christ. The waters flowing from it in the mystery of Baptism would cleanse us and refresh us with grace.

The miracles at Lourdes continue until today to confront us with the message of Mary and the constant availability of God’s healing and forgiveness. The Spring is a reminder that the springs of “living water” are waiting for the people of the world, that they may come and “drink freely, without pay.” The burden of sin upon us will be lifted, its stain washed away. The message grows more emphatic with Lourdes. Sin is the core of the problem. The world must change. The Darkness is gathering.

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Saint Catherine Laboure and The Medal Of Miracles

God Bless My Beautiful Saint Catherine Laboure and her unwavering faith in miracles…. may we too know how to walk blindly in this world….seeing only love and the goodness in others. the miracle of life is that we share this love with all, the minute we are born into the light of a new world….we birth and rebirth ourselves everyday in this light and love, in choosing His Will, and so it is we remain in Divine Love, His eternal grace, forever knowing our place in the Sacred Heart of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. One God forever and ever. Amen. Love, Light, and Blessings to all. Amen.-Owen Joseph/shannan suzzette

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St. Catherine Labouré and the Miraculous Medal

Saint Catherine Labouré and the Miraculous Medal

Incorrupt body of St. Catherine Labouré

Mother and Child
The sound of the evening Angelus bells floated across the fields and vineyards of Burgundy. It was the second day of the month of May in the year of Our Lord 1806. In the little village of Fain-les-Moutiers a child of destiny was coming into the world, a tiny instrument of God, who would one day be the confidante of the Queen of Heaven to usher in the age of Mary. Her name was Catherine Labouré, the ninth child of a family of eleven.

The following day, the Feast of the Finding of the True Cross, the small child was baptized. All her life she was to have a deep devotion to the Cross of Our Lord. It would not be long before she was to feel the weight of sacrifice with the death of her mother at the age of nine.

Early one morning shortly after her mother’s death, a family servant came silently upon the little one standing on her tiptoes, stretching upwards, impelled by love, until she reached the statue of the Blessed Virgin. As she leaned her head against the Madonna, the servant heard the child say: From now on, You will be my Mother!

Catherine received her First Holy Communion at the age of eleven on January 25th, 1818. From that day on, she rose at four o’clock each morning and walked several miles to assist at Mass and to pray for grace and strength before the start of her day’s work. Her only desire now was to give herself without reserve to her dear Lord. Never was the thought of Him far from her mind.

By this time Catherine’s elder sister, Marie Louise, had left to join the Sisters of Charity, and the little girl who had always been obedient now had to direct and supervise the homestead. She looked after everything: she made the bread, cooked and did the housework, carried daily meals to the workmen in the fields and cared well for the animals.

A Sister of Charity
Once, when she was in the village church, she saw a vision of an old priest saying Mass. After Mass the priest turned and beckoned to her with his finger, but she drew backwards, keeping her eyes on him. The vision moved to a sickroom where she saw the same priest, who said: “My child, it is a good deed to look after the sick; you run away from me now, but one day you will be glad to come to me. God had designs for you. Do not forget it!” At that time, of course, she did not understand the significance of the vision.

As is the European custom, Catherine’s father invited various suitors to seek her hand in marriage and always her reply was: “I shall never marry; I have promised my life to Jesus Christ.” She prayed, worked, and served the family well until she was twenty-two, when she asked her father’s permission to become a Daughter of Charity. He flatly refused, and to distract her, sent her to Paris to work in a coffee shop run by her brother Charles. During the entire year spent there, she maintained her resolve to become the bride of Christ.

Her aunt, Jeanne Gontard, came to Catherine’s aid and enrolled her in the finishing school she directed at Chatillon. Since Catherine was a country girl, she was miserable at this fashionable school. One day, while visiting the hospital of the Daughters of Charity, she noted a priest’s picture on the wall. She asked the nun who he might be, and was told: “Our Holy Founder, Saint Vincent de Paul.” This was the same priest Catherine had seen in the vision. Later, after much persuasion from her Aunt Jeanne, her father granted permission for Catherine to enter the convent.

In January of 1830 Catherine entered the hospice of the Daughters of Charity at Chatillon-sur-Seine. This was just after the Reign of Terror in France, where sacrileges were committed in the name of freedom. Licentious women danced on the main altar of Notre Dame. Even the body of St. Genevieve, the Patroness of France, was desecrated. Saint Vincent de Paul’s body had been hidden, but four days after Catherine’s entry into the Mother House, his remains were transferred back to his own church with joyous processions and ceremonies.

Shortly after her entrance, God was pleased to grant Catherine several extraordinary visions. On three consecutive days she beheld the heart of Saint Vincent each time under a different aspect. At other times she beheld Our Divine Lord during Mass, when He would appear as He was described in the liturgy of the day.

First Apparition
In 1830 Catherine was blessed with the apparitions of Mary Immaculate to which we owe the Miraculous Medal. The first apparition came on the eve of the feast of St. Vincent, July 19. The mother superior had given each of the novices a piece of cloth from the holy founder’s surplice. Because of her extreme love, Catherine split her piece down the middle, swallowing half and placing the rest in her prayer book. She earnestly prayed to St. Vincent that she might, with her own eyes, see the Mother of God.

That night, a beautiful child awoke her from her sleep, saying: “Sister Labouré, come to the chapel; the Blessed Virgin is waiting for you.” When Catherine went to the chapel, she found it ablaze with lights as if prepared for Midnight Mass. Quietly, she knelt at the Communion rail, and suddenly heard the rustle of a silk dress. The Blessed Virgin, in a blaze of glory, sat in a chair like that of Saint Anne’s.

Catherine rose, then went over and knelt, resting her hands in the Virgin’s lap, and felt the Virgin’s arms around her, as she said: “God wishes to charge you with a mission. You will be contradicted, but do not fear; you will have the grace. Tell your spiritual director all that passes within you. Times are evil in France and in the world.”

A pained expression crossed the Virgin’s face. “Come to the foot of the altar. Graces will be shed on all, great and little, especially upon those who seek them. Another community of sisters will join the Rue du Bac community. The community will become large; you will have the protection of God and Saint Vincent; I will always have my eyes upon you.” (This prediction was fulfilled when, in 1849, Fr. Etienne received Saint Elizabeth Seton’s sisters of Emmitsburg, MD, into the Paris community. Mother Seton’s sisters became the foundation stone of the Sisters of Charity in the United States.)

Then, like a fading shadow, Our Lady was gone.

The Second Apparition
Four months passed until Our Lady returned to Rue du Bac. Here are Catherine’s own words describing the apparition:

“On the 27th of November, 1830 … while making my meditation in profound silence … I seemed to hear on the right hand side of the sanctuary something like the rustling of a silk dress. Glancing in that direction, I perceived the Blessed Virgin standing near St. Joseph’s picture. Her height was medium and Her countenance, indescribably beautiful. She was dressed in a robe the color of the dawn, high-necked, with plain sleeves. Her head was covered with a white veil, which floated over Her shoulders down to her feet. Her feet rested upon a globe, or rather one half of a globe, for that was all that could be seen. Her hands which were on a level with Her waist, held in an easy manner another globe, a figure of the world. Her eyes were raised to Heaven, and Her countenance beamed with light as She offered the globe to Our Lord.

“As I was busy contemplating Her, the Blessed Virgin fixed Her eyes upon me, and a voice said in the depths of my heart: ‘ This globe which you see represents the whole world, especially France, and each person in particular.’

“There now formed around the Blessed Virgin a frame rather oval in shape on which were written in letters of gold these words: ‘ O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee.’ Then a voice said to me: ‘ Have a medal struck upon this model. All those who wear it, when it is blessed, will receive great graces especially if they wear it round the neck. Those who repeat this prayer with devotion will be in a special manner under the protection of the Mother of God. Graces will be abundantly bestowed upon those who have confidence.’

“At the same instant, the oval frame seemed to turn around. Then I saw on the back of it the letter ‘M’, surmounted by a cross, with a crossbar beneath it, and under the monogram of the name of Mary, the Holy Hearts of Jesus and of His Mother; the first surrounded by a crown of thorns and the second transpierced by a sword. I was anxious to know what words must be placed on the reverse side of the medal and after many prayers, one day in meditation I seemed to hear a voice which said to me: ‘ The ‘M’ with the Cross and the two Hearts tell enough.’ ”

“All who wear this medal will receive great graces . . .”

The Miraculous Medal
The Mother of God instructed Catherine that she was to go to her spiritual director, Father Aladel, about the apparitions. At first he did not believe Catherine, but, after two years, approached the Bishop of Paris with the story of the events that had taken place at Rue du Bac. Our Blessed Mother had chosen well Her time for the apparitions as the Bishop at that period was an ardent devotee of the Immaculate Conception. He said that the Medal was in complete conformity with the Church’s doctrine on the role of Our Lady and had no objections to having the medals struck at once. The Bishop even asked to be sent some of the first.

Immediately upon receiving them, he put one in his pocket and went to visit Monseigneur de Pradt, former chaplain to Napoleon and unlawful Archbishop of Mechlin who had accepted his office from the hands of the Emperor and now lay dying, defiant and unreconciled to the Church. The sick man refused to abjure his errors and the Bishop of Paris withdrew in defeat. He had not left the house when the dying man suddenly called him back, made his peace with the Church and gently passed away in the arms of the Archbishop, who was filled with a holy joy.

The original order of 20,000 medals proved to be but a small start. The new medals began to pour from the presses in streams to France and the rest of the world beyond. By the time of St. Catherine’s death in 1876, over a billion medals had been distributed in many lands. This sacramental from Heaven was at first called simply the Medal of the Immaculate Conception, but began to be known as the Miraculous Medal due to the unprecedented number of miracles, conversions, cures, and acts of protection attributed to Our Lady’s intercession for those who wore it.

The most remarkable miracle was the conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne, a wealthy Jewish banker and lawyer and also a blasphemer and hater of Catholicism, in 1841. A Catholic friend, M. de Bussieres, gave him a medal, daring him to wear it and say a Memorare. After considerable persuasion he agreed to do so. Not long after, Alphonse accompanied M. de Bussieres to the Church of Sant ‘ Andrea delle Frate to make funeral arrangements for a dear friend. There Alphonse saw a vision of Mary as on the Miraculous Medal. He was converted instantly and immediately begged for Baptism.

Alphonse Ratisbonne later went on to become a priest, taking the name of Father Alphonse Marie. Working for thirty years in the Holy Land, he established several institutions. Out of reverence and gratitude to Our Savior, he built the expiatory sanctuary of the Ecce Homo on the spot where Pilate displayed Jesus to the Jews. So great was the love he had for his people, that he dedicated the remainder of his life, as did his brother, Father Theodore, to work for the conversion of their immortal souls. Among the converts of these two priest brothers were a total of twenty eight members of their own family.

On the last day of 1876, St. Catherine passed to her eternal reward. For the forty-six years from the year of the apparitions until her death, only she and her confessor knew who it was to whom the famous Miraculous Medal was revealed, despite many pressures she received to reveal the secret. The years passed by, Catherine performed daily her mundane and very ordinary tasks of sewing and door keeping, unknown to the world around her, which was buzzing with the miraculous effects of the medal. Because of this humility, she is often called the Saint of Silence. When her body was exhumed for beatification 57 years after her death in 1933, it was found as fresh as the day it was buried. Her incorrupt body can still be seen today at the Mother House of the Sisters of Charity, 140 Rue du Bac in Paris.

If you wish to know more about St. Catherine Labouré and the Miraculous Medal, we recommend the booklet “Mary’s Miraculous Medal.” It contains novena prayers, history, conversion stories and beautiful color pictures. www.olrl.org/lives/

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Our Lord’s Prayer

Our Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done on earth,
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
The power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.

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“a man has a great work and a great burden in life when he undertakes to hold a woman in love, for the weight of his world rests in her heart forever, yet together they find balance in the strength of the Divine birthing and stretching into new life between them.”-Owen Joseph Tierney Jr./Shannan Suzzette Taylor

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Akademisk Kor.
Nenia Zenana, conductor.

The works of Hildegard von Bingen.
Blessed Hildegard of Bingen (German: Hildegard von Bingen; Latin: Hildegardis Bingensis) (1098 — 17 September 1179), also known as Saint Hildegard, and Sibyl of the Rhine, was a German writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, Benedictine abbess, visionary, and polymath. Elected a magistra by her fellow nuns in 1136, she founded the monasteries of Rupertsberg in 1150 and Eibingen in 1165. One of her works as a composer, the Ordo Virtutum, is an early example of liturgical drama.

She wrote theological, botanical and medicinal texts, as well as letters, liturgical songs, poems, and arguably the oldest surviving morality play, while supervising brilliant miniature Illuminations.

Academic Choir is a choir from Copenhagen. The chorus refers to himself as a oratoriekor and acts every year two major works by oratorie size and also always Handel’s Messiah at Christmas.
The approximately 70 singers in Academic Choir are all amateurs, as for the individuals concerned have decades of experience in the choir. Academic Choir strive despite his amateur status, a semi professional standard and are working constantly to upskilling. Choir has been on a number of concert tours and recording new singers at regular intervals.

Academic Choir is linked to the Academic Orchestra in a single institution. As with the choir comprises Academic Orchestra of talented amateurs.
Academic Choir was founded in 1935, in association with the well-established Academic Orchestra, which had been founded in 1899. Choir’s name originated from the Association, as the singers had to student environment. Students can still be found in the choir, but today’s korsangere are admitted from all environments.

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I Belong to You.

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Only Love Is Real ……as Meister Eckhart wrote in The Soul Is One with God, “God is Love, and He who is in Love is in God and God in him”

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September 2011
Uncovering the gems of the ‘Catholic Epistles’ (3): First, Second and Third John

Thomas D. Stegman SJ

This three-part series attempts to uncover many of the gems contained in the Catholic Epistles of the New Testament. This article looks at 1, 2 and 3 John. Thomas D. Stegman SJ is associate professor of New Testament at Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, USA.

The letters associated with the Johannine tradition are both exhilarating and sobering. The theological riches contained therein, especially the simple yet profound understanding of God as love, inspire the Church to greater unity and to more faithful witness to the gospel. Yet these letters also give evidence of division among Christians. The Johannine epistles have a striking relevance for the Church (and churches) today.

These letters bear obvious marks of relationship with the gospel of John. The fourth evangelist’s fondness for the theme of truth and the symbol of light can be found throughout the epistles. Most commentators hold that the Johannine letters were written by one who situated himself within the traditions passed down by the ‘beloved disciple’ of Jesus, the disciple who was the key witness to the events set forth in the fourth gospel (John 19.35; 21.24). The author of the letters identifies himself as ‘the elder’ or ‘presbyter’ (2 John 1; 3 John 1), one of the leaders of the Johannine community that likely consisted of a network of house churches. In what follows, I employ the hypothesis of Luke Timothy Johnson that these three writings were originally a ‘packet’ of letters. Third John is a personal letter to Gaius who was host of one of the Johannine house churches. Second John is a letter addressed to the assembly that regularly met in Gaius’s house (this is the referent of ‘the elect lady’ – 2 John 1). First John is a circular letter or, better, a homiletic treatise that was intended to be read not only in the assembly in Gaius’s house but also in other assemblies in the Johannine network.

First John – Living the implications of ‘God is Love’
The Elder makes clear from the outset that he writes to his spiritual ‘children’ (5.21) in order to inculcate koino-nia (‘fellowship’ or ‘communion’) – koino-nia with God, with Jesus, and with one another (1.3). koino-nia is possible because the ‘Word of life,’ who was with the Father from the beginning of time, was made flesh and dwelt among us (1.1-2; John 1.1-18 – indeed, it is with good reason that First John is read at the weekday liturgies during the Christmas Season). Through the anointing (2.27) and abiding (3.24) of the Spirit of God, Christians are in intimate communion with God; moreover, they are called and enabled to grow in communion with one another. This is the fundamental message of First John.

The Elder’s message is grounded in a profound understanding of who God is. First John contains the most eloquent propositional statement about the divine nature: ‘God is love’ (4.8, 16). God’s love has been dramatically revealed in the event of the incarnation: ‘God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him’ (4.9; John 3.16). This statement makes two crucially important points. First, God holds nothing back, not even his only Son, in manifesting his love for people. Second, God’s great desire for the people he created is that they have life. Love begins with God and is possible only because of God: ‘In this is love, … that God has loved us and sent his Son’ (4.10). Moreover, God’s loving nature continues to be made manifest through the gift of the Spirit (4.13) through whom God abides in people (3.24). First John thus makes perfectly clear the primacy of God’s all-encompassing love (4.19), a perennial subject for prayerful contemplation.

As the revelation of God in human form, Jesus showed forth the extent of God’s love when ‘he laid down his life for us’ (3.16). The Elder picks up on the fourth gospel’s presentation of Jesus as ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1.29). He points to the cleansing blood of Jesus (1.7) and to Christ’s death on the cross as ‘expiation’ for sin (2.2; 4.10). First John is one of several New Testament witnesses to the sinlessness of Jesus (3.5). Indeed, the Elder repeatedly draws his readers’ attention to Christ’s righteousness (2.1, 29; 3.7), to his faithfulness in manifesting God’s love by his self-giving manner of living. It is surely no accident that in Jesus’ self-description in John’s gospel as ‘the way and the truth and the life,’ the first element listed is ‘way’ (John 14.6). As we will see, First John calls for imitation of Jesus’ way (2.6).
The foregoing helps to shed light on the Elder’s mysterious statements about Jesus coming through water and blood (and not through water only), and about the triple testimony – Spirit, water, and blood – concerning the truth about Christ (5.6-8). The outpouring of the Spirit at Jesus’ baptism gave witness to his identity as God’s Son and impelled him into his ministry (John 1.32-34). But a complete understanding of Jesus requires appreciation of his self-gift on the cross, symbolized by the water and blood flowing from his pierced side (John 19.34) that followed upon his handing over the Spirit (John 19.30). Furthermore, the Spirit’s agency at work in the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist bears testimony to the ongoing efficacy of Jesus’ revelation of God’s love.

While the Christology of First John functions to reveal who God is, it also illuminates how the elder understands Christian identity and the pattern of Christian life – the identity given at Baptism and the pattern empowered by the Eucharist. In terms of identity, the gift of God’s love through his Son has enabled Christians to be ‘children of God’ (3.1). The elder employs a striking image in connection with those who are ‘begotten by God’: they have within them the divine ‘seed’ (sperma; 3.9). Commentators wrestle with what is meant by this expression. David Rensberger argues that, in effect, the image of God’s seed points to ‘the genetic resemblance’ between Christians and God. This resemblance will be fully realized in the eschatological future: ‘Beloved, we are God’s children now. What we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed, we shall be like him because we shall see him as he is’ (3.2). But in the present, this seed is the divine dynamism that enables Christians to grow and develop as God’s children.

Maturation in Christian life entails manifesting a particular pattern, the pattern of love revealed by Jesus. Throughout the epistle the elder refers to God’s love ‘being perfected’ or ‘brought to completion’ (2.5; 4.12, 17). The verb employed, teleioo-, denotes the movement toward a goal – here, life in the fullness of God’s presence along with all God’s children (3.2). The way to perfection is through keeping the commandments. According to the elder, these commandments can be boiled down to the commandment of love. While the commandment of love is, from one perspective, ‘old’ (cf. Deut 6.4-5; Lev 19.18), it is also ‘new’ because it has been given fresh impetus by the revelation of God’s love through his Son (2.7-8). Jesus’ self-giving love is both the empowerment and pattern of Christian life. Thus the elder can succinctly state, ‘Whoever claims to abide in [Christ] ought to live as he lived’ (2.6).

This leads to one of the most challenging features of First John. The elder insists that Christians live out the full implications of the incarnation. On the one hand, Jesus has made known who God is, the Father whom no one has seen (4.12). On the other hand, now that God’s love has been revealed through Christ, it is incumbent upon Christians to love the brothers and sisters whom they can and do see – the people whom they encounter at home, work, society – as the sine qua non of their identity as God’s children. Failure to love one’s brothers and sisters is tantamount to remaining in darkness (2.9, 11), in deceit (4.20), in death (3.14). There is no such thing as love of God that does not entail love of one’s fellow human beings (4.21). The elder therefore offers the following summary of the Christian commandments: ‘believe in the name of [God’s] Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us’ (3.23).
An honest examination of conscience leads to the acknowledgement that Christians do fail, at times, to love their brothers and sisters (not to mention their enemies). It thus should come as no surprise that the elder states that the one who claims to be without sin is full of deceit (1.8) and denies what God has done through Christ’s expiatory death. What can be confusing and disconcerting is that later in the letter the elder declares that ‘no one begotten by God commits sin’ (3.9; 5.18). These two statements – that no one is without sin and that God’s children do not sin – are prima facie contradictory; they are certainly in tension with one another. The second statement can disturb because who can honestly say that he or she does not sin? And if that is the case, then does one’s sin disqualify one’s identity as a child of God?

Many solutions have been proposed to resolve this tension in First John. The best one, in my opinion, appreciates the ‘already but not yet’ quality of the elder’s understanding of Christian existence. In the present, Christians still sin on occasion; hence they have need for confession and forgiveness. In their future state, where they will see God face to face (3.1-2), they will be so transformed that sin is no longer possible. Part of the process of growing in perfection (recall the comments above about teleioo-) is allowing the glorious goal of life in God’s presence to colour more and more one’s behaviour and character development in the here and now.

One of the tragic ironies in the New Testament is that the family of writings that has bequeathed to the Church such beautiful images of intimacy and communion (e.g., ‘vine and branches,’ John 15.1-11; ‘being one’ with God and with one another, John 17.20-26; koino-nia, 1 John 1.3) also reveals the reality of strife, separation, and even schism. In John’s gospel it is the Johannine community that experienced painful expulsion from a Jewish community (John 9.22; 12.42; 16.2). In the Johannine epistles, however, the strife and schism are internal. The elder refers to a group that ‘went out from us,’ an act he calls ‘desertion’ (1 John 2.19). At one level, the parting of the ways was the result of theological differences, especially in Christology. From the elder’s perspective, those who left were guilty of denying that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah (2.22). Commentators typically take this reference as indicating that the schismatics lacked an adequate appreciation of the role that Jesus’ death plays in the revelation of God’s love. What we will see as we turn to Second and Third John is that the schism also played out at the level of leadership in the community and in the area of hospitality.

Second and Third John – maintaining truth, struggling with division
Second and Third John are the shortest writings in the New Testament. We can think of them as two postcards that were sent – one to Gaius, the host of a house church, and the other to the assembly that met in his house – along with First John. These brief epistles give us a window into an early community’s struggle to safeguard truth and to protect its identity and integrity.

That ‘truth’ (ale-theia) is a key theme in Second John is evident from the five occurrences of the term in the first four verses. ‘Truth’ refers here primarily to the revelation of God’s love through Christ, the revelation that culminates in the cross and resurrection. But ‘truth’ has more than intellectual connotations for the elder. The truth is something that must be lived. Hence the elder uses the expression ‘walking in the truth’ (4), by which he means conducting oneself after the self-giving manner of Jesus (6). The elder’s teaching is a reminder that the best witness to the truth of the gospel is Christ-like comportment. Such comportment can serve as common ground for different Christian denominations seeking unity. While theological differences need to be acknowledged, Christians can strive for and promote unity by working together as a practical expression of their commitment to the gospel.

In Third John the elder praises Gaius for his practice of extending hospitality to preachers of the gospel. It is important to appreciate how much the early Church depended on hospitality for the work of proclaiming the good news. Such hospitality was facilitated by letters of recommendation. In fact, Third John is in part a recommendation letter for a certain Demetrius, who was probably the bearer of the letter. The elder vouches for Demetrius’s character and asks Gaius to care for him (12). By supporting such people, Christians are ‘co-workers’ for the gospel (8). The elder’s teaching is a reminder that all Christians are called to participate in the Church’s mission to proclaim the gospel. Fervent prayer for, financial support of, and hospitality to missionaries – and those preparing to be missionaries – are ways of participating.

Second and Third John can also be a source for critical self-reflection. In Third John we learn that the elder is opposed by a man named Diotrephes, who may have been a leader in the Johannine community (at least formerly). Diotrephes is no longer in communion with the elder and refuses to receive the latter’s emissaries; moreover, Diotrephes hinders others from doing so (9-11). The elder is obviously pained by these developments. However, it is interesting to point out that, in Second John, the elder similarly exhorts his readers to refuse hospitality to a certain group (10-11).

Now, it is almost impossible to reconstruct the actual events that led to mutual exclusion. Nor is this the place to judge and second guess. With these caveats in place, it is worth reflecting for a moment on the highly charged language the elder employs. He refers to those who have ‘gone forth’ from the community as ‘antichrists’ (1 John 2.18-23; 2 John 7). Presumably, those who left would not have regarded themselves as such; indeed, it is easy to imagine that similar epithets were cast back upon the elder. Because religious commitment cuts deeply to the core of a group’s identity and because there is so much at stake, people understandably react strongly when their convictions and practices meet with question and even opposition. But in the context of today’s world – which goes beyond the issue of ecumenism to the relationship between world religions – the dangers and consequences of using demonizing language are only too evident. The Johannine epistles offer much in encouraging Christians to grow in ‘walking in the truth’; that is, theological convictions are to be expressed through lives characterized by love. Perhaps the acknowledgement of sin found in 1 John 1.8 was, in part, recognition on the part of the elder of contributing to division rather than unity. Individual Christians and communities do well to reflect on how they promote unity and on how they may (even unwittingly) cause division.

The last word in the Johannine epistles is, appropriately, a reminder of a key theme found in John’s gospel – namely, friendship (3 John 15). The elder reminds Gaius that Christians are called to be ‘friends’ (philoi). But it is important to appreciate the basis of such friendship. The basis is friendship with Jesus, who taught his disciples at the last supper: ‘I have called you friends because all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you’ (John 15.15). Friendship was a much discussed topic in the ancient world. One commonplace was that ‘friends share all things in common.’ Jesus draws on this trope in reminding the disciples what he has bestowed on them. Later in his final discourse, Jesus makes known God’s desire that Christians bear witness to the gospel by their unity (John 17.23-23). The vocation of Christ’s friends is to strive diligently ‘to be one.’

Works Cited
l Luke Timothy Johnson, The New Testament: An Interpretation, 3rd ed. (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2010)
l David Rensberger, The Epistles of John, Westminster Bible Companion (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2001)


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