1 John 3:2[,3…], 21
We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. [Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure.]
Beloved, if [our] hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in God…
Can you look at a boy and know what he will look like is a man? Oh, there are some computer-generated attempts at it in our day, but in John’s day? That is not possible. In the same way, he is trying to tell us that what we are now is as a child in comparison to what we will be when we are in heaven. Just as you cannot see the man in the boy, we cannot know what we will be like in heaven.
But, the first verse that is skipped over in our reading from John today leads us further in the virtue of hope: “everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure.” What Hope? That we will be like God. Let me tell you a story on myself.
My dad did a lot of remodeling in our home. When I was very young, he was remodeling a section of the house and putting up plasterboard. According to my dad, I crouched down with my little plastic hammer and started hitting the plasterboard and saying “I will help you daddy, I will help you daddy.” As a toddler, what did I know about nails? All I knew was my dad was placing the plasterboard against the wall, hitting it with his hammer, and it stayed on the wall. So I was going to help my dad by making sure the plasterboard would obey him.
This story points out that, as we try to follow what God wants from us, we may not always get it right. We may not always look like God to the world! We may make mistakes. The rest of the section of John’s letter that the church skips over for us in this section of John talks about the need to avoid sin. The need to conform ourselves to the ways of God. To be made holy, as he is holy. To be made pure, as he is pure.
God hates our sins, but he knows that they are mistakes caused by our fallen human condition. That is why Jesus came to save us. The skipped section of John’s letter contrasts the children of God and the children of the devil; love and hate. Then, the part we pick up today is that our hearts can have confidence in God, because the Holy Spirit remains with us. When we make ourselves pure, and holy, the Holy Spirit desires to remain with us. Yes, desires… To be with us.
The next verse that was skipped says: “everyone who commits sin, commits lawlessness, for sin is lawlessness.” But we are called to purity, holiness, righteousness, the righteousness instituted by Jesus for our salvation.
Why has this reading been given to us on the feast of the Holy Family? When Jesus remained in the temple, he taught us that we are called to pursue the holiness of God. Even as a boy, he was pointing toward what he was to be as a man. He may be the only boy that we could see the man in.
But we are now God’s children, filled with the Holy Spirit which makes us able to respond in the world in a way that will reveal the glory of God. Our response to the Holy Spirit’s presence in us makes us able to go beyond being just a child of God, by becoming the men and women that God needs in our world today to shine forth his light into a world of darkness.
We will be fully transformed only when we see God face to face. But because the Holy Spirit has been poured into our lives, we can live a life of holiness and purity, of grace and majesty that our Heavenly Father will be proud of.
My dad told me the story of my plastic hammer with pride in his eyes. Does our Heavenly Father look on you with pride in his eyes? Of course he does! Even when we make foolish mistakes, provided we learn from them and grow in holiness.
Almighty God and Father of us all, you chose to forgive our sins that we might live in your holiness. We turn to you at the end of this year, knowing our own failings, that we have not lived to the holiness that you ask of us. For this new year, send the power of your spirit on us that we may live as your holy children, princes and princesses of the Kingdom.
You sent us the example of Jesus, whose perfect life was always a sacrifice to you. Help us to make the same of our own lives, for no other reason than your glory. Turn our hearts away from what does not give you glory, that we may be seen as doing your will, even if it is… just a child’s hammer. Make our desires fully in line with your will, that all glory may be “to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was the beginning, is now and ever shall be world without end. Amen.