1 John 2:12-17

I am writing to you, my own children,
whose sins have already been forgiven through his name;
I am writing to you, fathers,
who have come to know the one
who has existed since the beginning;
I am writing to you, young men,
who have already overcome the Evil One;
I have written to you children,
because you already know the Father;
I have written to you, fathers,
because you have come to know the one
who has existed since the beginning;
I have written to you, young men,
because you are strong and God’s word has made its home in you,
and you have overcome the Evil One.
You must not love this passing world
or anything that is in the world.
The love of the Father cannot be
in any man who loves the world,
because nothing the world has to offer
- the sensual body,
the lustful eye,
pride in possessions -
could ever come from the Father
but only from the world;
and the world, with all it craves for,
is coming to an end;
but anyone who does the will of God
remains for ever.

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Luke 2:36-40

There was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well on in years. Her days of girlhood over, she had been married for seven years before becoming a widow. She was now eighty-four years old and never left the Temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayer. She came by just at that moment and began to praise God; and she spoke of the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem. When they had done everything the Law of the Lord required, they went back to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. Meanwhile the child grew to maturity, and he was filled with wisdom; and God’s favour was with him.
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Today’s first reading requires a basic understanding of what love is. A friend of mine described accurately and succinctly the difference between love and lust. Love is the giving of self; lust is the using of someone else as a tool for one’s own gratification. When we talk about lust, we usually think of sexual lust, which is the using of another person for one’s own sexual gratification. This can take place anywhere, even in a marriage. For example, a husband can lusts for his wife whenever he uses her for his own sexual gratification.

However, there is another kind of lust, which is emotional lust. This is when we use another person for our own emotional gratification. The example my friend gave is when wives use their husbands for their own emotional security or even for economic stability. Women are perfectly capable of saying, “Here, take my body. Have sex with me. Just give me money. Just give me security.” That is emotional lust speaking, not love, because it is using another person for one’s own gratification.

Love, on the other hand, involves the giving of self. Today we tend to misuse this word a lot, forgetting the crucial difference between love and lust. For example, we often say something like “I love chicken rice”, but it would probably be more appropriate to say “I lust for chicken rice” since eating chicken rice gratifies my senses. If I truly loved chicken rice, then I would sacrifice my life for the good of chicken rice. The ridicule of this statement makes obvious how we misuse the word “love”.

With this understanding of what love is, it then becomes much easier to understand what St. John is writing about in the first reading. Essentially he says, anyone who loves what is in the world has put his love in the wrong place. Why give of ourselves, why sacrifice ourselves, for something that is temporal? Why love something that is temporal? Instead, give of ourselves, sacrifice ourselves, love what is eternal, he tells us.

The will of the Father is eternal. Our human souls are eternal. Other people’s souls are eternal. The kingdom of God is eternal. Love these, he says, not what will pass.

In the gospel reading, we read of Anna, the prophetess. She was 84 years old and served God day and night. She loved serving God clearly, because she gave of herself to the service of God. She also fasted and prayed. Fasting is a sacrifice of the self for a higher cause. It shows discipline of the body. It shows mastery over the senses. It shows that a person does not give in to his or her own physical desires.

At the same time, the craving for food is translated into a craving of the spirit, a craving for God. In Anna’s case, her restless heart was rested the moment her eyes beheld the chosen one of God, the Christ. Her years of fasting and prayer have helped her to realise instantly the Christ the moment her eyes beheld him.

We do not need to see God physically to recognise him, but we do need to love him, to give of ourselves out of love for him. We need to pray and to fast, in order to increase our desire for him, our desire for the only one who can satisfy our heart’s deepest longing.
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Prayer:
Dear God, help us to love you and those around us, and indeed anything that is eternal. Help us to master our senses and to discipline our bodies, so that we may be able to focus and give of ourselves to that which lasts for eternity. We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Give Thanks to the Lord for: Those who help us to rid ourselves of lust.

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