Brothers and sisters: Put on, as God's chosen
ones, holy and beloved,
heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness,
bearing with one another and forgiving one another,
if one has a grievance against another;
as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.
And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of
And let the peace of Christ control your hearts,
the peace into which you were also called in one body.
And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you
as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another,
singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
with gratitude in your hearts to God.
And whatever you do, in word or in deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.
(Col 3: 12-21)
Pondering the Word …
Today is Holy Family Sunday, and there’s probably no other Scripture
passage that spells out more clearly what makes for a holy family, a
holy community or nation, a holy world. We get distracted this time
of year with the images of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, haloes glowing
around their heads, and lose sight of what really makes them holy.
It’s not about sainthood or special graces or even being or living
with the Savior. It’s about love in all its manifestations:
compassion, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, gratefulness.
Living with other people is hard, particularly if we have some
idealized concept of what living compatibly is supposed to look
like. Paul calls love, “the bond of perfection,” but doesn’t say
anything about us being perfect—because we are not! Living in love,
living as a holy family means we work, united together as one,
through the good times, the difficulties, the joys and sorrows, and
the blessings and the mistakes.
Our world is sorely in need of holiness right now. Not just piety
and prayer in the confines of a sanctuary. We need holy people
living and active in the streets, on the world stage, in nations,
communities, and families. If we take Paul’s advice and remember to
say and do everything in the name of Jesus, we can begin to sow
peace, holiness, and love. What a great gift that would be to
ourselves, our families, the world, and to God!
Living the Word…
We are on the cusp of the New Year: time to look back and to plan
ahead; to set some new goals perhaps, change some habits, eliminate
some things weighing us down. What if your only resolution this year
was to consciously put on love every morning? To be so aware that as
you are pulling on your shirt sleeves or tying your shoes, you take
a brief second to say, “I put on love today?” What might your day
look like? Well, you might take better care of yourself. Maybe you’d
find you’re more grateful for the little things, perhaps more
patient with both loved ones and strangers. You might even be
willing to forgive a friend or to show compassion for someone you
might have been judgmental of before. Imagine for a moment how that
would feel—to let go of all that tension, anger, and
bitterness........ Now go ahead, give it a try. See if you can do
this throughout January and how you can change your life through
“The LORD bless you and keep you! The LORD let his face shine upon
you, and be gracious to you! The LORD look upon you kindly and give
This passage from Numbers appears in the lectionary every January 1,
and for good reason. What a wonderful blessing God bestows on the
Israelites! What a wonderful blessing for all of us as we begin the
new calendar year! I offer just one additional thought: This year,
allow yourself to accept the unconditional love of God’s. Open your
eyes and see God’s face shining upon you. Open your heart and allow
God to give you peace. God’s blessings are there for us always, but
it’s up to us to accept them. Open yourself to God’s love every day.
I wish you and your friends and families health and happiness in
what you heard from the beginning remain in you.”
(1 Jn 2:22-28)
There’s a lovely Jewish folktale that says when we
are about to be born, the angels press our lips together to silence
us so we don’t share the wonders of heaven when we arrive on earth.
That’s why, the tale tells, when we are trying to recall something
we often tap the little space between our lips and nose (called the
philtrum, from the Greek, meaning “that which awakens love”). A
beautiful image, and a meaningful one as well. John is cautioning
the early Christians about those preaching false doctrines, which of
course is important. But it’s also important to remember we are all
made in the image of God. Despite the burden of original sin, we
come to this earth with a sense of wonder, innate joy, and trust.
Jesus tells us we must be like little children to enter the Kingdom
of heaven. Let what you have heard from the angels—hope, joy,
wonder—remain in you.
one who remains in him sins; no one who sins has seen him or known
(1 Jn 2:29-3:6)
John’s letters are filled with declarative statements
like this that, if taken at face value, seem impossible to achieve.
We are all sinners; in fact, to declare ourselves sinless is the
most serious sin of all! Most of us fail every day without even
batting an eye. And yet we have seen him, we do know
him. He is the one who takes away our sins. To remain in Christ is
to acknowledge our need for his mercy. Do not despair your
sinfulness-- it is what brings you to your knees. The more we seek
forgiveness for our weakness, the stronger we become.
“Come, and you will see.”
We live in a world of immediate gratification. We prefer to have
things come to us. This is particularly prevalent among young people
and can be a source of anxiety and depression. The things that give
real meaning to our lives are those we are willing to seek. Jesus
doesn’t require John’s disciples to jump through hoops or study long
hours or go to a distant land. He invites them to look at his life.
He doesn’t force them, but he doesn’t do all the work for them
either. It is their choice. It is our choice. If you really want to
see beyond the limits of yourself and your world, accept Jesus’
invitation: “Come, and you will see.”
If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses
him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? Children, let
us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.
(1 Jn 3:11-21)
I know many people who struggle with how to show compassion to the
needy sisters and brothers they encounter. They hesitate to give
money because they are afraid they will be supporting a drug or
alcohol habit, so instead they avert their eyes and hurry their pace
or hope for the stoplight to change quickly. While we are not to
judge what someone chooses to do with money we might give, we still
might want to find other ways to show compassion. How about keeping
a bag of socks and other seasonal supplies in your car? Some healthy
snacks or juice boxes? Gift cards to local fast food places? If you
are walking near a convenience store, offer to purchase some things
for the person. Keep information handy about emergency support
systems and shelters. And treat whomever you encounter with respect.
Let them see the love of God shining through your eyes and in your
smile. That may be the best gift they receive all day.
And a voice
came from the heavens, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well
(Mk 1: 7-11)
Spend time in prayer today imagining God saying this to you. “You
are my beloved son, my beloved daughter. I look upon you and see
that you are very good. I am well pleased.” If this is too hard for
you, ask a trusted friend or minister to pray it with you. Allow
yourself to look upon yourself as God does: with love.