Sunday, January 02, 2011

Belong to God

January 3, 2011
Monday after Epiphany

Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can know the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh be longs to God, and every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus does not belong to God. This is the spirit of the antichrist that, as you heard, is to come, but in fact is already in the world. 1 John 4:1-3

From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matthew 4:17

Father, give me the grace to serve the Lord in awesome wonder at the sacrificial love exhibited by your Son Jesus. Send the Holy Spirit to guide me to change the direction in which I am looking for happiness in this world. Amen.

The lesson of Christmas has been driven home in the past week. All those who encountered the Lord were changed. Mary was changed from a bride-to-be to the Mother of God when she accepted her role as handmaiden to the Lord. Joseph was changed from betrothed husband to the father of Jesus when he accepted the message of an angel and welcomed Mary (and Jesus) into his home.

All others who encountered Jesus – Simeon, Anna, the shepherds, the wise men and even Herod were affected by the presence of the Lord in their lives or in their lands.

Today, John reminds us that we encounter the true Christ and the anti-Christ in the world. But we should not be deceived. It is up to us to make sure we follow the path of genuine love. We are asked to do what pleases Him, not what pleases us! Jesus underlines this teaching with his first comment in his public ministry. “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

So what exactly does repent mean? Jesus does not use this word in an “Elmer-Gantryesque” fashion to encourage people to get that “olde tyme religion.” Repentance for John the Baptist and Jesus requires us to adopt an entirely new point of view regarding our life. We are asked to look at life and our choices in life God's way. Jesus echoes John’s call to turn away from our selfish pursuits and accept His gift of love – a gift that requires us to love others as he loved us. In essence, he espouses a very new fashioned religion that takes a dramatic departure from the old ways.

Resolution season is upon us. The newspapers are filled with ads for exercise equipment. Television is jammed with ads for diets. Even smart phone applications are getting into the act. For example, “RunKeeper” is giving away its “pro” version in the iPhone App Store.

Jesus gave away his app, too. His application is love. In order to support our resolution to change, he promised to love us. All we needed to do is have faith and act in love. How will you make this happen in your life this year?

Coming out of the holiday season, we were inundated with direct mail, public service announcements, and e-mails about giving to charity. Even though the “tax” deadline has passed, how will you make supporting charity part of your life?

Consider signing up for payroll deduction to your favorite charity at your place of work or making a regular electronic payment to those causes from your bank account or credit card each month. Couple that financial support with a commitment to do five hours of volunteer work per month for other individuals or charitable organizations. If you don’t know where to start, look in your church bulletin.