Climb the Mountain of Faith

1 John 1-4

St John the Apostle is an especially inspirational figure for us because of his extra-ordinary devotion to Christ.  His spiritual journey should inspire us to reflect on our own journey to know Christ and have greater fellowship with him. 

 

A visual of a long journey up a mountain, a journey of faith, comes to mind as I think about the short commentary that I once read that focused on St John.  It contrasted two comments attributed to him.  It first lists his selfish-appearing request that he and his brother sit alongside Jesus at a throne of power, and then, contrasting with humility, was this other quote from him about Jesus, which said, "The way we came to know love, was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers."  John's attitude change shows that he just didn't go up the spiritual mountain in a saunter, ambling up there at a leisurely pace. He dedicated his life to the journey and no doubt arrived at his ultimate destination.

 

The message for us should be that no matter how steep that hill might appear for us to be, no matter how entrenched pride appears to be in our make up, dramatic change is always possible.  While we're tempted to accept the plateau that we're at, especially if we've been at our life's journey for a lot of years, knowing Christ in a deeper way, and seeking greater fellowship with him, is always possible, and called for.

 

In the First Reading today, and during the next two days, we get a heavy dose of the First Letter of John, which provides us with a good roadmap to climb the mountain to a deeper fellowship with Christ.  John became known as "the beloved disciple", not so much by emphasizing God's love for him (though that's evident), but more in paying homage to God's holiness.  John's focus is not on self, but on knowing God.  John's writing gives us the striking contrast between light and darkness, Christians and the world, and truth and untruth - all are used to illustrate the threats to, and responsibilities of, Christian life.

 

Coming from a mixed religion family myself, I've had a lot of exposure to what I think is the pitfall of many of the non-denomination churches, who seem to be very (let's say) retail oriented.  They satisfy the needs of the religious "consumers" who are prone to ask, "How can Christianity help me with my problems and needs?"  

 

This runs counter to the focus of John's beliefs and his writing. His message is more about forgetting oneself, and contemplating God.

 

In our day, as in John's, many claim to have fellowship with God, but it can be an empty claim if their relationship with God is just an extension of their self-focus.  The way to have real fellowship with God is to be delivered from self-centeredness to stand in God's presence and choose light over darkness, Christianity over worldly things, truth over untruth.  

 

We get stalled in our march up the mountain if we can't rid ourselves of the shackles of self-focus. If we don't focus on God's holiness in our ascent up the mountain, we'll never understand God's plan of salvation through Christ on the cross.  John apparently did understand it, as we read that he was the only apostle who stood faithfully at the cross during the passion when Jesus made him the guardian of His Mother.

 

We'll also struggle to understand the difficulties that occur in our lives.  Without a focus on him, we're prone to blame God in times of trouble, prone to ask, "Why is God allowing this to happen to me?"  But if we do start with God's holiness, we realize that we really deserve nothing but his scrutiny, and we don't waste our energies challenging and criticizing God when trials come.  True fellowship, peace and joy, occurs when we reconcile ourselves to God. 

 

Pope Benedict said that "St John is a model for all believers, who are called to establish a deep personal friendship with Jesus." 

 

So, let us spend some time in reflection today contemplating our level of fellowship with God.  Are we walking in the light?  Are we closer to the version of John that is claiming for a seat of honor, or are we closer to the version that feels like we need to lay down our lives for our brothers?  Are we, in fact, progressing up the mountain?  

 

So, let us pray today that we can use the inspiration of St John to be more "other focused" and offer ourselves more fully to God through our service to others, so that we can continue to make that climb up the mountain of faith, to our ultimate destination, the kingdom of Heaven.

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