In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being was life, and the life was the light of all people.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
(John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)
In the Gospel for today, we hear the great prologue of St. John’s Gospel, full of so much richness. One sentence reads: “But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.”
There is a way in which, as Christians, we are born again. The phrase tends to have a very non-Catholic ring to it, but of course the image is Christ’s very own. This image of a new birth corresponds to a new life, a new beginning with a new self. The Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote that Jesus:
“who, born so, comes to be
new self and nobler me
in each one and each one
more makes, when all is done,
both God’s and Mary’s Son.”
The Christian is a new self, a new creature, now a son of God, with Mary as his mother. Perhaps if you have experienced a more vigorous or forceful conversion this truth is more obvious to you, yet it is also true for all who have been baptized and live in God’s grace. And perhaps it helps to think of this image more literally. It is not just a metaphor, but a literal truth that the Christian has been so totally transformed as to merit being called “born not by natural generation . . . but of God.” Thus the Christian life in grace lacks the dullness and aimlessness of a life of sin—to be born of God is to have that perennial freshness that we all desire. It is within our grasp, thanks to the grace of God available to us in the sacraments, especially reconciliation and Holy Communion. We often think of resolutions for the new year, so let one of them be to frequent these sacraments more often and let God make us into His children once again. Happy New Year!
—Timothy Kieras, S.J.
Lord, we choose that the goal of our life is to live with you forever. You, who love us, gave us life. Our own response of love allows your life to flow into us
without limit. All the things in this world are gifts of you, presented to us so that we can know you more easily and make a return of love more readily.
As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts from you insofar as they help us develop as loving persons. But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives,
they displace you and so hinder our growth toward our goal. For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in you. Our only desire and
our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to the deepening of your life in me.
—Based on the words St. Ignatius as paraphrased by David L. Fleming, S.J.
from the beginning of the Spiritual Exercises