Today’s passage is kind of like a letter from your dearest friend. It is the kind of letter we would all like to receive.
Today’s passage is kind of like a letter from your dearest friend. It is the kind of letter we would all like to receive. It is short, but full of love and affection, as well as good advice. The letter is attributed by some to the Apostle John, by others to the ʺJohannine school,ʺ but, like the others attributed to John, it is signed, ʺthe Presbyter.ʺ The opening verses are full of the warmest of words. ʺBeloved, I hope you are prospering in every respect and are in good health, just as your soul is prospering. I rejoiced greatly when some of the brothers came and testified to how truly you walk in the truth. (3 John 2-4)
As we read these words, we know that this is the way that God wants to address us each day, and certainly on that day when we come before him face to face. Listen as He wishes you good health of both body and soul and tells you that he is rejoicing because of what he has heard about you from others. As he tells you too that, because you have been ʺwalking in the truth,ʺ others have seen the truth and have been touched by it, and they have lifted you up in prayers of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord. Would we not all love to hear such words of praise from God?
It is not easy to walk in the truth. But, then, it never has been. Still, there have been saints in every age, and maybe we know someone now who these words would describe very well. The brethren, in the community that the Presbyter is writing to, have a solid reputation of saintly behavior. How does he know this? He has heard it from the mouths of travelers, strangers who have experienced the hospitality and compassion of this community. ʺBeloved, you are faithful in all you do for the brothers; especially for strangers; they have testified to your love before the church.ʺ (3 John 5) Then, in order to reinforce this, he advises the brothers to continue to carry on in this good work: ʺPlease help them [brothers and strangers] in a way worthy of God to continue their journey.ʺ (3 John 6)
It is true that this is how we are supposed to be. We know it, both in our intellects and in our faith. But it is also true that sometimes we are tired, or we feel overwhelmed, as though it is too much to expect of us ALL THE TIME. Yet, God gives us a gentle reminder here that this is our calling and, without saying it directly, we know in faith that he will give us the graces we need to continue serving our brothers and sisters, as well as the widow, the orphan, and the stranger according to his will of love.
In this short letter, the ʺPresbyter tells this community’s leaders, and God tells us, that when we see someone living his or her public and private life in this manner, we ought to imitate that person, rather than imitating those who have given themselves over to contentiousness and the things of the world. ʺDo not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does what is good is of God; whoever does what is evil has never seen God.ʺ (3 John 11) This may seem infinitely harder in our day, because the purveyors of relativism have been very successful at convincing themselves and many others that evil is good and good is evil. We must recognize this delusion when we see and hear it. And we must avoid it at all cost, for our souls are in the balance. We must learn what is REALLY good, and then we must develop the the habits of imitating it. In so doing we honor God’s commandment to love one another and we enter the narrow path that leads to the narrow gate that is the entrance to heaven.
Let us pray that God give us the gift of wisdom so that we may, more and more often, be able to recognize and to discriminate between what is really true and false, what is really good and evil, in all that we say and do. Would it not be wonderful to hear him say to us on that day we meet him face to face, ʺBeloved, you have been faithful in all you have done for others, especially for strangers. Come! Take the place I have prepared for you in my kingdom.ʺ Amen.SKM: below-content placeholder