By Jennifer Gregory Miller ( catholicculture.org ) | Jan 21, 2022
Right now our family has not been experiencing anything usual in daily life. We’ve had snow storms and sickness to break the routine. I think we would actually be grateful for a little “ordinary” at least in health. I know by mid January most people have made and already broken their New Year’s resolutions, so I’m behind on the usual trend. I did see many of my friends with their words or saints of the year. I usually take a different approach. I examine the areas in my life I need to restructure, and then look for some spiritual inspiration on ways to tackle these resolutions through the year. January 5’s reading from the First Letter of John, 1 Jn 4:11-18, is my inspiration for the year:
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us, that he has given us of his Spirit. Moreover, we have seen and testify that the Father sent his Son as savior of the world. Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him and he in God. We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.
God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. In this is love brought to perfection among us, that we have confidence on the day of judgment because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.
I love reading and contemplating the First Letter of St. John. For most weekdays during the Christmas season, the first reading is taken from the First Letter of John. As a catechist with the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, I have spent a lot of time preparing children for their First Reconciliation and First Communion, with the main Scripture passage and image being the Vine and the Branches, John 15. We emphasize what it means to remain on the Vine.
St. John in his Letter is basically expanding on ways to applying Jesus’ words to life: what does it mean to remain in His love? I particularly love the last verse:
There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.
Fear can take on many forms. We can have good “fear of the Lord”, as in the gift of the Holy Spirit, where we have “respect for the majesty of God.” The wrong kind of fear, motivated by punishment, is not true love.
I see this in action as a mother. There is a huge difference when my sons do something so they won’t get in trouble compared to the times they do something motivated by love. “Let me help you make dinner, Mom.” They also feel the interior difference. There is much more joy when they are personally motivated to do something out of love than obligation or fear.
My resolution is targeted on shifting my attitude. How am I approaching my life with Christ? When I approach confession, my spiritual reading, getting up in the morning, fulfilling my daily duties, etc. what is my motivation? Am I filled with dread and consternation? Am I perturbed? Am I just doing it because I have to? If so, that is doing it out of fear.
I need to recognize and shift that fear and work on building true love’s motivation. The first step is revising and/or establishing the good habits, but the second step is looking at my motivation. This year, I’m working on remaining in His love, and rooting out the fear. As St. Paul says, “Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong. Your every act should be done with love” (1 Cor 16:13-14).