Memorial of Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church

Lectionary: 205


Who is the liar? Whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Whoever denies the Father  and the Son, this is the antichrist. 
Anyone who denies the Son does not have the Father, but whoever confesses the Son has the Father as well.


Saint John the Divine contributed four documents to the New Testament: the gospel and three letters. This is a corpus of firm convictions; black is black and white is white with not much grey in between. The world is occupied by believers and non-believers, honest witnesses of the Gospel and liars.
Scholars believe Saint John and his church, perhaps in Ephesus, were suffering continual challenges from the large, prestigious, well-organized, well-financed synagogue. If they were not martyred for their faith they were ostracized and shunned. Families were split; neighbors and life-long friends were alienated. People met with, associated with, bought from, and sold to “their own kind.” Having crossed the line from Judah to Christian there was no turning back. One made this decision only with deep conviction, impelled by a positive thirst for the Truth who is Jesus Christ.
But the Christians had their own resources, as witnessed by the magnificent gospel and first letter. Only a scholar (or scholars) of enormous genius could have produced them; the congregation provided every assistance as they worked.
Given the situation of extreme polarization within the formerly homogenous Jewish community, we can understand the strident language of today’s first reading: Whoever denies Jesus Christ is a liar! Many of us shudder at such language even as we hear polarized news sources (Fox News, CNN, NPR, EWTN, etc.) hammering at each other with the same invective. Depending on whom you ask, the anti-Christ has appeared as Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.
But out of that ancient fiery furnace came deep and profound truths; they still challenge us today. Our faith does not allow anyone to straddle the divide that Jesus created. If he is often challenged by opponents in Matthew, Mark and Luke, in the Gospel of John he challenges. When they would strike an agreeable chord, his reply leaves them reeling in confusion. When he announces, “You must eat my flesh and drink my blood!” many walk away. He does not pursue them saying, “It was only a metaphor!” It was not a metaphor; he meant it literally and we take it as such. Take it or leave it.
Whoever confesses the Son has the Father as well. Ours is a Trinitarian faith, unlike Judaism, Islam or deism. American Christians enjoy the liberty of a tolerant, deistic society. The “American Civil Religion” declares “In God we trust.” and “one nation under God” but it does not know the “name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Within a deistic nation there is room for many religions worshipping many gods or no god. Some would say all gods are the same God; courtesy restrains us from arguing the point.
But within our congregation, we pass over that banality to confess the Son and the Father as well.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.