7 Jan – Wednesday after the Epiphany
1 John 4:11-18
My dear people,
since God has loved us so much,
we too should love one another.
No one has ever seen God;
but as long as we love one another
God will live in us
and his love will be complete in us.
We can know that we are living in him
and he is living in us
because he lets us share his Spirit.
We ourselves saw and we testify
that the Father sent his Son
as saviour of the world.
If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God,
God lives in him, and he in God.
We ourselves have known and put our faith in
God’s love towards ourselves.
God is love
and anyone who lives in love lives in God,
and God lives in him.
Love will come to its perfection in us
when we can face the day of Judgement without fear;
because even in this world
we have become as he is.
In love there can be no fear,
but fear is driven out by perfect love:
because to fear is to expect punishment,
and anyone who is afraid is still imperfect in love.
After the five thousand had eaten and were filled, Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to Bethsaida, while he himself sent the crowd away. After saying goodbye to them he went off into the hills to pray. When evening came, the boat was far out on the lake, and he was alone on the land. He could see they were worn out with rowing, for the wind was against them; and about the fourth watch of the night he came towards them, walking on the lake. He was going to pass them by, but when they saw him walking on the lake they thought it was a ghost and cried out; for they had all seen him and were terrified. But he at once spoke to them, and said, ‘Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.’ Then he got into the boat with them, and the wind dropped. They were utterly and completely dumbfounded, because they had not seen what the miracle of the loaves meant; their minds were closed.
…as long as we love one another God will live in us and his love will be complete in us.
It is human and expected to have short-term memory. Many of us truly struggle to remember and believe that we are so fully, completely, and unconditionally loved by God. We all need constant reminders. This inevitably happens because the bulk of our earthly human experiences of love are tinged with disappointments, conditions, and unmet expectations. Sometimes, we are also blinded by our pre-existing wounds from receiving love from those around us, as their best intentions may appear jarring to our senses and comfort zones. We judge the imperfection of their love-efforts, more than perceiving the goodness of their heart-intentions.
“The great spiritual task facing me is to so fully trust that I belong to God that I can be free in the world–free to speak even when my words are not received; free to act even when my actions are criticized, ridiculed, or considered useless…. I am convinced that I will truly be able to love the world when I fully believe that I am loved far beyond its boundaries.” (Reaching Out, Henri Nouwen)
In today’s scripture passages, the early disciples themselves admitted that none of them had ever seen God. This utter humility and honesty that they lacked hard evidence for their faith, did not dampen their conviction to love each other as faithfully as Jesus had commanded them to do.
This reminds me of how I often may not like certain persons I come across in my life, and yet, I recognise that God had allowed for our paths to cross because I am to learn something very valuable from our interactions and the mutual-journeying. Indeed, although I am not called to like every single person I encounter, but I am called to love my neighbour as I love myself. This is only possible when we ask for the grace of God to see as perfectly as He does… the inherent goodness and dignity of each soul as loved by the Creator.
“We ourselves have known and put our faith in God’s love towards ourselves. God is love and anyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him. Love will come to its perfection in us when we can face the day of Judgement without fear; because even in this world we have become as he is.” (1 John 3-4)
How then are we taught to love perfectly like God does, since our human nature is so imperfect? The person of Jesus is the ‘gold standard’ of perfect love – love purified by the emptying of one’s Self in self-sacrifice. Jesus’s love for us is so perfect that it is purely free from self-love, self-gratification, and self-preservation. As for us, we share in this gift of love through the rays of trials and tribulations, the purification of living with a difficult family member, the suffering of illnesses, the hardship of financial instability or even joblessness. We need the courage that our faith in Jesus can bring us through each of these storms. “Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.” Each of these can be a sanctifying beam to burn off the dross of self-love and self-gratification and self-preservation. Only if we bravely allow it to.
How can I seek God’s will today and allow Him to perfect His love in, and through me? How can I draw closer to God and allow His will to sanctify my soul?
(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)
Prayer: Lord, indeed sometimes the challenges we face are truly insurmountable. Help us to trust that your perfect love is both the safe boat to travel in, and the safe harbour to return to.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks to God for always guiding us through our trials even while we could not fathom His merciful hand in each situation.