The First Letter of John
St. John the Apostle has been accepted widely as the author of the First Epistle of John since apostolic times, although in more recent years it has been proposed that one John the Elder was the author of all three canonical Epistles ascribed to St. John.
Tradition remains strong, however, that it was the Apostle who wrote the Gospel and at least the first part of the three Epistles bearing his name.
Tradition has St. John writing this Epistle shortly after writing his Gospel and after returning to Ephesus from his exile on the island of Patmos AD 95-96.
Some scholars date the Epistle a few years later, closer to AD 100.
The target audience of the Epistle is never identified, but his writing style expresses a familiarity with his audience.
It is likely that the Epistle was intended for a local church in the region of Ephesus, where tradition holds that St. John ministered after having left Jerusalem and to which he likely returned after his exile.
The community to which St. John wrote was under attack from false teachers, whom he characterized as “antichrists.”
They denied the divinity of Christ and even that he was truly man (cf. 4:2-3).
These descriptions could refer to several different heresies known to have been circulating at the time or could have been the fruit of Jewish converts who came to doubt the Church’s developing understanding of the Person of Christ.
St. John urged the people to hold fast to what they had received from the apostolic Tradition.
It is by remaining in communion with the Apostles, submitting to the authority of the Church, and keeping the Commandments in a spirit of fraternal love that we remain in full communion with God (cf. 4:16).
Love, especially “God is love” (4:8, 16), can be said to be the primary theme of the Epistle; God is a living community of love, a love that came to us in a definitive way through the Incarnation so we might share in this love through Christ and become true children of God (cf. 3:1).
(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)
1 John 1:1-4 John the Apostle is thought to have written this letter from Ephesus around AD 96 after returning from his exile on the isle of Patmos. Although his name is never mentioned, the letter is attributed to the Apostle by tradition and has a similarity of style to John’s Gospel. The key themes are communion with God, divine filiation, the necessity of faith in Christ, and love of neighbor. (CCC 425, 456-469)
Ch 1:3 Fellowship: This is the relationship that exists among the Christian faithful; the Greek word for this is koinonia, also translated as “communion” from the Latin communio. The Greeks used this word to describe a joint partnership in a business enterprise, but Christians appropriated this term to indicate their communion with one another in Christ by reason of their incorporation into the Body of Christ, the Church, through Baptism. (CCC 1108, 2781-2784)
Ch 1:5-10 God’s “light” is his illuminating truth and infinite goodness, which guides us along the path to sanctity and eternal happiness. All are born with Original Sin and are prone to personal sin. Communion with God through Christ requires us to live the moral law and to love our neighbor unconditionally. (CCC 214, 827, 2052-2055, 2071-2073, 2147, 2470)
Ch 1:9 Confess: In Scripture, confession denotes a verbal self-accusation, not merely an interior thought. John had in mind here an accounting of specific sins rather than a general acknowledgment of having been a sinner. The power to forgive sins, which Christ gave to his Apostles, presupposes the Apostles’ knowledge of the penitent’s sins, their gravity, and the penitent’s disposition for contrition and repentance. The Sacrament of Penance is the ordinary means of obtaining forgiveness for sins committed after Baptism. (CCC 978-980, 1460-1467, 1455-1458, 1847, 2631, 2839)
Ch 2:1-11 There are two senses in which we can “know” God. We can know academic facts about him, e.g., knowing about his attributes, or we can know him through love, e.g., as a child knows a parent or as a person knows a friend. It is this latter sense that John has in mind. If we truly know God, we will love God, and if we truly love God, we will keep his Commandments in imitation of his Son. True love of God is expressed by love for those around us. (CCC 27-50)
Ch 2:1-2 Advocate: This is equivalent to a defense attorney. Christ, whose Sacrifice redeemed us from our sins, described himself and the Holy Spirit in this way, indicating that they will intercede for us and act in our defense before the judgment seat of God. (CCC 519, 601-606, 692, 1159-1162, 2634)
Ch 2:7 No new commandment: John’s teaching should have been familiar to his audience, as it was an important teaching handed down from the Apostles who knew Christ personally. In the same manner, all Church doctrine is derived from the teachings of the Apostles. Christ, who left us the Deposit of Faith, is the fullness of God’s Revelation, and his public revelation ended with the death of John the Apostle. (CCC 76-78, 98, 1965-1972)
Ch 2:12-14 In specifically addressing children, young men, and fathers, John had in mind the newly baptized, the relatively young Christian, and those of mature faith. Both the newly baptized and those more established in their faith are incorporated into the Mystical Body of Christ and enjoy a supernatural life.
Ch 2:15-17 The detachment of which John wrote consists of a certain lack of desire for created goods in order to achieve a greater union with Christ. John was not denigrating the goods of this world; rather, he urges us not to turn any particular good into an idol. “Lust of the flesh” includes not only sexual excesses but also the pursuit of all disordered physical pleasure; “lust of the eyes” indicates covetousness, or an obsession with the sensory world rather than the life of the spirit; “pride of life” refers to conceit, greed, and a disordered love of wealth and material goods. True love of God requires that our hearts be liberated from all attachments as to be free to love. Prayer, fasting, self-denial, and almsgiving are traditional means for achieving the kind of self-discipline that releases us from worldly attachments. (CCC 377, 2514-2516, 2526, 2534-2540)
Ch 2:18-29 Antichrists are mentioned only in the Epistles of 1 and 2 John. John may have in mind not only a single figure; rather, he includes all attempts to undermine Christ’s work through advocating falsehood and violently persecuting the Church.
Anointed by the Holy One: Christians have the certainty of faith because we have received the grace of the Father and the Son through the Holy Spirit at Baptism. We can never be deceived as long as we remain faithful to the truth, guided by the teaching authority of the Magisterium of the Church. (CCC 88-93, 99, 695, 1290-1292, 2778)
Ch 2:18 The last hour: This refers to the present age, which began with the coming of Christ and is seen as the final era in salvation history; it is also called “the last days,” “the end times,” etc. Vigilance is necessary for Christians to remain faithful to Christ and to resist sin. (CCC 670, 672, 677)
Ch 2:19 This verse strongly suggests that the antichrist was a contingent of believers who fell into heresy and left the Church. Heresy is the outright denial of some truth of the faith after the reception of Baptism. (CCC 817, 2089, cf. CIC, 751)
Ch 2:22-25 Fundamental to the Christian Faith is the belief that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. To know Christ is to know God the Father since God the Son is the perfect reflection of the Father. (CCC 454, 461-469)
Ch 3:1-2 Divine filiation refers to our adoption as children of God by virtue of our incorporation into the Body of Christ, the Church, in Baptism. We were made in God’s image, an image that became corrupted by Original Sin. By our response to God’s grace, however, we can gradually begin to resemble the image of Christ until we become perfectly confirmed to him in everlasting life. This growth in union with Christ is ultimately perfected in the Beatific Vision in Heaven. (CCC 163, 460, 1023, 1720-1722, 2009, 2772)
Ch 3:3-10 Sin involves a deliberate choice of thinking, speaking, or acting contrary to God’s will. The grace received in Baptism and in the other Sacraments, together with our personal struggle, aids us in overcoming the temptation to sin. John explained that acts of charity expressed through good works reflect true knowledge of God. (CCC 457, 1755-1756, 1849-1851, 2345)
Ch 3:7 Righteousness, or justification, is a free gift from God bestowed through the grace of Baptism. As we cooperate with this grace in obedience to God, our righteousness grows. (CCC 1989-1995, 2017, 2020)
Ch 3:8-10 Children of the devil: This is not meant as a parallel to “children of God ''; rather, it is a figure of speech meaning those who cooperate with and are in league with Satan, who has hatefully rejected God from the beginning. (CCC 385, 392, 394)
Ch 3:11-24 Authentic love is expressed in our actions. Cain’s murder of Abel reflected a serious internal hatred for his brother. Christ’s Sacrifice demonstrated a supreme love for us. If we do not act lovingly toward others, we cannot claim to know God. John likened hatred toward one’s brother to murder since hatred is its origin. (CCC 1033, 2447-2448)
Ch 3:14 Death into life: If we are separated from union with God by sin, we are spiritually dead. If we are in union with God and reconciled to him, we share in his divine life and, thus, are spiritually alive. Conversion from sin, then, is a transformation from death into life. (CCC 1470, 1524)
Ch 3:16 To give up one’s life for another is the ultimate expression of love, and those who die for Christ are honored as martyrs of the Faith. However, every Christian is called to lay down his or her life for Christ by dying to self and habitually serving others. (CCC 609, 2473)
Ch 3:19-22 When we have good consciences and accuse ourselves of sin in our hearts, we can be sure that this is a consequence of enlightenment from the Holy Spirit. Likewise, if we have clear consciences, we may petition God with greater confidence. (CC 208, 1781, 1848, 2631, 2778)
Ch 3:23-24 We cannot truly love our neighbor if we do not draw this from Christ through meditation on the Word of God and uniting ourselves to Christ in the Eucharist. (CCC 260, 1823, 2842)
(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)
The Second Letter of Paul to the Thessalonians
Most scholars hold that the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians was written by St. Paul the Apostle, while some believe that a disciple of St. Paul wrote it much later.
The latter theory is based upon the Epistle’s similarities to and differences with the First Epistle to the Thessalonians.
Although the themes are very similar, almost to the point of repetition, those who hold for a non-Pauline authorship believe there are differences in the perspective regarding the Second Coming of Christ.
The tradition of the Church has always accepted St. Paul as the authentic author.
The Second Epistle to the Thessalonians was intended to reinforce the message of the first Epistle and to clarify some misunderstandings that had resulted from that Epistle.
It appears that some members of the faithful misunderstood St. Paul’s first Epistle to indicate that the Second Coming of Christ was imminent (cf. 1 Thes 4:13-5:12).
This rumor was exacerbated by someone who wrote a false letter in St. Paul’s name (cf. 2:2-3), which had led some of the faithful to quit their jobs and normal activities so as to simply wait for the end to come (cf. 3:6-15).
St. Paul explained that many things must come to pass before the end of time and that the Christian way of living leaves no room for idleness.
St. Paul also exhorted people to adhere to what he had taught them and to live accordingly (cf. 3:6-7)
(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)
1 Thessalonians 1:1-4 In his second letter to the Christians at Thessalonica, Paul expressed his happiness over their growing faith and their steadfastness in the face of much opposition and persecution. (CCC 996)
Ch 1:5-10 Eternal damnation and punishment await those who reject God’s love and mercy and remain obstinate to the end. As always, Paul reminds the early Christians that Christ is their consolation and that they must remain steadfast in living the faith. He warns them that infidelity and rejection of the Gospel will bring about eternal punishment. Though fear of punishment is never an ideal motive to remain in the grace of God, it can still serve as a valid incentive. In any case, the profound joy and lofty perfection in experiencing the goodness of Christ should be the main stimulus for our fidelity. (CCC 682, 1037-1041)
Ch 1:8 Those who do not know God: Pagans who had not received the Gospel.
Those who do not obey the gospel: Jews who rejected the message of Christ. The Church passes no final judgment on persons of other faiths or even on those who do not believe in God. Through God’s merciful and mysterious ways, such persons may find salvation. Nevertheless, all salvation comes from the redemptive Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, and it remains a duty and a right of the Church to evangelize all people throughout the world. (CCC 848)
Ch 1:9-10 Eternal destruction: This refers to Hell, or an unending spiritual death. Images of Hell do not suggest complete annihilation of the damned but the pain of complete and permanent separation from God.
That day: This is the “day of the Lord,” the Final Judgment when Christ will come again. (CCC 166, 1033-1036)
Ch 1:11-12 Our God and the Lord Jesus Christ: A clear statement on the divinity of Christ. (CCC 2636)
Ch 2:1-12 In his First Epistle to the Thessalonians and in other letters, Paul warned the faithful to be watchful and prepared for Christ’s return since he would arrive unannounced. Apparently, some had taken that advice to the extreme and assumed his return was imminent. This may have been due in part to other preachers or charismatic prophets who propagated that belief or even forged a letter stating this teaching in the name of Paul. These false teachers had left many “shaken” and “excited.” Like the modern “millennialists,” some believers had withdrawn from ordinary life and became overzealous about the end times. Paul now had to assure them that Christ was not likely to return soon since certain things must transpire first, among these a rebellion (or apostasy) and the appearance of a “man of lawlessness.” This latter character may be a demonic force or some kind of false prophet. While it is not entirely clear what Paul was trying to communicate here, what we do know from the words of Christ is that the Church must go through a final trial and persecution that will test the faith of its members. Moreover, there will arise an “Antichrist” (cf. 1 Jn 2:18), an agent of deception who will falsely claim to be Christ and will try to draw believers away from the Church with empty promises. Those who hold fast to the faith will be amply rewarded. (CCC 673, 675-677)
Ch 2:7-8 Mystery of lawlessness: The same divine love revealed in Christ highlighted both the abundant availability of grace and the presence of great iniquity. God’s love is so great that he sent his Son to redeem us, and with his Death and Resurrection came the graces necessary for us to overcome evil and find salvation.
Jesus will slay him: At his coming, Christ will definitively overcome sin and death together with the Devil and his minions. (CCC 385, 671)
Ch 2:11 Delusion: Those who persistently choose evil become more and more immersed in evil. Their habitual rejection of any overtures of God’s grace brings judgment upon themselves. This is similar to the “hardening of hearts” expressed elsewhere in Scripture. (CCC 321, 412)
Ch 2:13-17 Christians must hold on tightly to the tradition received from the Apostles. In this context, tradition refers to the Deposit of Faith received from the Apostles by word of mouth or through their writings. As of yet, the early Church did not have a completed canon of New Testament Scripture. “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God” (Dei Verbum 10).
God chose you: God knows from all eternity who would respond to his grace and receive eternal life. This foreknowledge, or predestination, is a mystery that compromises neither God’s omniscience nor the free will of every human being. (CCC 75-76, 82, 600, 1209, 2011)
3:1-5 God is always faithful. If we respond to grace and cooperate with God’s will, his grace will increase, making us holier and stronger in the face of temptation. (CCC 2699)
Ch 3:6-15 To the Thessalonians who thought Christ would return very soon-having stopped working and having become prone to meddling in the affairs of others-Paul advised them to get back to work. Those who are able must work for the good of the community. Christian life includes a substantial amount of work to give glory to God and serve the needs of others. Through their work, men and women, who are formed in the image of God, participate in his act of creation and collaborate in Christ’s work of redemption. (CCC 2044, 2427, 2830)
Ch 3:16-18 Letters in Paul’s day were often dictated to a secretary and then signed with a brief note from the author. Paul did this regularly as a way of authenticating the content of the letter.
Every letter of mine: Paul likely wrote many letters, not all of which were inspired by the Holy Spirit or have survived. (CCC 120)
(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)
The First Letter of St. John, well all THREE LETTERS are encyclicals and are LETTERS OF LOVE
THIS IS SO SO IMPORTANT!!
The theme of his Letter is not only the triumph of Jesus
How everyone who belongs to Jesus MUST love one another as he has loved us
John makes a clear point that if we DO NOT love our BROTHERS then we DO NOT TRULY LOVE GOD
If we DO NOT love those who are NEAR TO US then we DO NOT TRULY LOVE GOD who is invisible to us
How can I say I love the God who is invisible and yet not love the brother or the neighbor who is visible?
St. John goes on to talk about a theme that is repeated AGAIN AND AGAIN
1 John 2:15, “Do not love the world or the things in this world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him.”
THAT IS SO SO IMPORTANT!!
The WORLD and our LORD are at enmity with each other
The world WARS against the Lord
How many of us are living for the WORLD?
How many of us, at the end of these 365 DAYS, realize and say, “Lord, the world has my heart more than you do. In so many ways, the world has shaped my lens more than you do. In so many ways, Lord, what I work for, what I get up for, what I strive for day after day is not for YOU but it is for the honors of the world, for the victories of the world, for the recognition for the world, or even for the comforts of the world.”
I can’t belong to the Lord and belong to the world AT THE SAME TIME
1 John 2:16, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world.”
THIS IS FASCINATING!!
Remember Genesis Ch 3 around 350 plus days ago?
Eve is in the Garden of Eden
The Serpent comes into the Garden and begins to tempt Eve to doubt the Father’s love for her, to choose of the WORLD and not of God the Father
He points out the fruit of the tree
Genesis 3:6, “The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eye, also desirable for gaining wisdom.”
Now I don’t know if you can catch this, but this is a little bit of a connection here
This is a bit of balance and symmetry here
“It was good for food”…LUST OF THE FLESH
That sense that it will taste good
It will satisfy my flesh
“She saw that it was pleasing to the eye”...LUST OF THE EYES
“Also desirable for gaining wisdom”...PRIDE OF LIFE
Remember the goal was, “God doesn’t want you to be like him. Don’t be like gods who know.”
And here in that PRIDE
In that SIN
In that LUST OF THE FLESH
In that LUST OF THE EYES
In that PRIDE OF LIFE
Eve takes the fruit and eats it
She gives it to her husband who eats it
They both FALL
Jesus recapitulates this right?
Jesus faces a battle in the wilderness with Satan
The battle is, “Turn these stones into bread.”
“Throw yourself down from the parapet of the Temple.”
“Bow down before me, and you get the kingdoms of the world.”
All of us, including our forefathers Adam and Eve fail
He succeeds the LUST OF THE FLESH…he does not change the stones to bread
He succeeds the LUST OF THE EYES…he does not want to be seen in pursuit of fame
He succeeds the PRIDE OF LIFE…he does not give into that worship of ANYTHING or ANYONE other than the Lord God himself
Has Fr. Mike mentioned that we have been made into God’s children?
In 1 John 3:1-2, “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it does not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
WHICH IS JUST A GIFT!!
We can’t even BEGIN TO HIGHLIGHT the GIFT that that is
God has already bestowed it upon us, letting us be called his sons and daughters
We mentioned it yesterday
Going from merely a marionette to a real boy/girl to be a real son or daughter of the Father
Now on to 2 Thessalonians
Once again, St. Paul loves these people so much
He is also highlighting for them that, “Do not turn away from the Gospel that you were given. And do not go running after people who are saying that Jesus already came and you missed him. Do not do this. Because there is more tribulation to come. Believe me, you will not miss Jesus when he arrives. When he returns YOU WILL NOT MISS HIM.”
That is VERY IMPORTANT THING for all of us to note
In 2 Thessalonians Ch 3 St. Paul was recognizing that some of these people were saying, “Well you know what? Jesus is coming right away. So I don’t really have to work. I don’t have to invest. I don’t have to put any effort into anything because he’s coming. So why plant crops? Because, shoot, you know, sooner or later he’s going to be here. Probably sooner. So those crops won’t be needed. I don’t need to take care of the people around me. I don’t need to take care of myself.” (Do you guys think Fr. Mike writes these little soliloquies himself or he’s just improvising? 🤔)
So St. Paul says, “No no no no. Listen. You keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness. Because we have this rule, that those who do not work should not eat. So it is very important that if you can work and you are not working, then you are doing something wrong.”
THAT IS A VERY IMPORTANT THING!!
2 Thessalonians 3:14, “If anyone refuses to obey what we say in this letter, note that man, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.”
So it’s REALLY IMPORTANT that they take heed of what St. Paul is saying
His last words on the subject are 2 Thessalonians 3:15, “Do not look on him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.”
Which is ABSOLUTELY KEY
To not treat each other as ENEMIES
Treating each other as BROTHERS AND SISTERS
So, my brothers and sisters, that just as St. Paul said, “Please pray for me and I am praying for you.” (That’s Fr. Mike asking, not me, although I can always use your prayers 😁)
PRAY FOR EACH OTHER
Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we give you praise and glory. We thank you so much for this opportunity to be with you today. We thank you, oh Lord God, for the beginning of the First Letter of John, just being reminded that you have made us into your children and what we shall be later on, we have no idea. The mind cannot even imagine. We cannot even dare to dream the future you have in store for us. And so we ask you to please help us. Help us to belong to you. Help us to love one another. Help us to place our faith into action. Help us to not be lovers in speech or in word, but in deed and in truth. Help us to love the people that are in our vicinity, those who are in our orbit. Help us to love those people who are near to us. Help us to love them as you have loved us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”