This post begins with Fr. MacEvily’s brief summary analysis of the chapter followed by his commentary on 2:1-5. I’ve also included in the post his paraphrase (purple text) of the text he is commenting on.
Analysis of 1 John 2~In this chapter, the Apostle points out the object which he had in view in reminding them, in the foregoing, of their weakness and liability to sin; and that was, to prevent them from committing sin any longer. He strengthens such as may have committed sin, against the horrors of despair, by pointing to the powerful advocacy of Jesus Christ in heaven (verse 1). He explains in what sense he is our advocate—viz., an advocate of redemption and propitiation (2). He next proceeds to point out the necessity of good works, the performance of them being the surest sign that we love God (3); and whosoever says he loves him, and observes not his commandments, is a liar, and asserts what is untrue (4); while, on the other hand, whosoever keeps his law, gives the clearest proof of the sincerity of his lovefor God, and a probable conjectural fnark of being in his love andfriendship (5). He requires for a continuance in God’s friendship and grace, a moral assimilation ivith Christ in the performance of good works (6).
He says that the precept which he is inculcating, is not a ”new”’ precept, but an ”old” one, with which they were familiarfrom the very beginning of their conversion, although, under a different respect, it might be termed “new” also (7, 8). He shows what the precept is, to which he is referring—viz., the precept of loving our neighbour, and he points out the evils of its infraction, and the advantages flowing from its observance (9, 10 11).
He next addresses the faithful in general, and congratulates them on the spiritual gifts which they received (12); and having referred to the different stages of spiritual life, he congratulates them on their spiritual perfections, analogous to the natural gifts in which men, in the different stages of human life, are prone to glory (13, 14).
The Apostle next guards them against the greatest obstacle to fraternal charity—viz., the love of the world, and the things of the world, and assigns reasons for shunning all inordinate attachment to both one and the other— viz., their incompatibility with the love of God (15), their innate deordination (16), and the transient, fleeting conditiion of their enjoyment andpossession (17).
The Apostle next proceeds to caution them against the snares of the heretics of the day. These heretics are the forerunners of the great Antichrist, and they deserted the Church, because they were not solid members of it (18, 19). But the faithful, who persevered in the unity of the Church, were sharers in the graces deposited with her (20).
He refers to one leading heresy of the day—viz., the denial ofJesus Christ, which involved a denial of his Father (22,23). He exhorts them to perseverance in the profession of the old faith, from which the heretics wished to seduce them (24-26), and ascribes their perseverance to the grace of God, left in his Church, of which grace they were sharers (27).
He again exhorts them to perseverance (28), and closes the chapter by entering on a new subject—viz., a description of the sons of God (29).
1Jn 2:1 My little children, these things I write to you, that you may not sin. But if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the just.
My little children, and dearly beloved, I write these things which I have alluded to concerning our common weakness and sinfulness, in order that, mindful of human frailty, you may guard against temptation and against adding still more to your natural weakness, by the habit of committing sin. But if any man commit sin, let him not despair of pardon; because, we have a Mediator in heaven with God the Father, possessing all the qualities of a powerful advocate, who can allege sufficient grounds for obtaining the remission of our sins, viz., his own merits, and the ransom paid for them, and who has also a right to be heard. This is Jesus Christ the Just.
My little children, a term of affection and endearment frequently employed by St. John in this Epistle, as also by our Redeemer himself (Mark 10; John 13, and by St. Paul, Gal 4), “these things I write to you, that you may not sin.” By “these things,” some understand the entire Epistle, the object of which is to keep them from sinning. Others make them refer immediately to the preceding chapter,—viz., I write these things regarding the liability in which we are all involved, of committing sin; and also regarding the sins into which we all fall, in order that, acknowledging your weakness and sinfulness, you may thus avoid the sins of pride or presumption; or, in order that, mindful of human frailty, you may be the more on your guard against exposing yourself to temptation, and against adding to your natural weakness by habits of sin. Hence, the sinfulness in which we are all involved, and the facility of obtaining remission (verse 9, of the foregoing chapter), should be no reason for our committing sin anew. There is no contradiction between this and verse 10 of foregoing chapter; for, here there is question of grievous sins, or sins for the commission of which, or continuance in them, the preceding words of St. John might be misconstrued, as a motive. “But if any man sin,” that is, commit sin, whether mortal or venial, “we have an advocate,” &c. Such a person should not despair of pardon, knowing that Jesus Christ has all the qualities of a powerful advocate in heaven. In the first place, he can adduce reasons for satisfying justice, without involving the condemnation of the criminal; these reasons he has in his own merits. In the next place, he intercedes for guilty man, whose humble confession he presents to his Father (Rom 8:34; Heb 7), and thus applies his merits to us. “An advocate with the Father.” The Greek word for “advocate,” παρακλητον, also means, a comforter, helper, intercessor. The literal translation from the Greek (paraclete) expresses all these meanings together.
1Jn 2:2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
For, he is a victim of propitiation for our sins; and not only for our sins, but for those of the entire world.
The Apostle explains in what sense Christ is our “advocate;” it is, as advocate,
or Mediator of Redemption, who made atonement for our sins, paid the ransom, and substituted himself in our place, as a vicarious offering, αντιλυτρον, as St. Paul expresses it.—(1 Tim 2:5-6.)
Is not the Catholic doctrine respecting the invocation of angels and saints opposed to this?
Certainly not, in the sense in which this is done by Catholics; for so, St. Paul would have derogated from Christ’s advocacy, by begging a share in the prayers of the faithful on earth (Rom 15:30; 1 Thess 5:25; Heb 13:12, &c., &c.); so would St. James, in recommending the faithful, to pray for one another (James 5:16). Moreover, if it be derogatory to the merits of Christ, for us to beg the intercession of the saints, it must be equally so for them, to intercede; hence, the angel (Zechariah 1:12,) who prayed for Jerusalem, and Michael, the archangel (Daniel 10:12), and Raphael (Tobit 12:12), and the saints, of whose prayers there is question (Rev 8:4), must have derogated from the merits of Christ. The Church of England, on the Feast of St. Michael and all angels, employs a form of prayer as expressive of intercession, as any Catholic prayer can be.—See Book of Common Prayer.
But who can tell that the angels and saints hear us, or know our wants?
Response:—Our Divine Redeemer can tell, and actually tells us they do know our wants (Luke, XV. 10): “there shall be joy before the angels of God upon one sinner doing penance;” also, Tobit 13:12, and Daniel 10:12. And we are told in the Gospel (Luke 20:36), that the saints in heaven are equal to the angels. How, then, could they rejoice over the sinner’s conversion, unless they knew of it ? But, how can they know it? We cannot say. Whether it be through the medium of visual rays or undulating sounds, or (which is more probable) in God, who may make this knowledge a part of their beatitude, we know not. We merely know and believe the fact. How the fact takes place, we know not, any more than we know the how of every other truth of faith, or of many phenomena of nature, which we firmly believe and know with undoubted certainty; although, utterly ignorant of how they exist or take place.
Do Protestants understand the how of the fundamental Christian mysteries. Trinity, Incarnation, &c. ?—of several undoubted, natural truths?
But do not Catholics worship saints and angels? Yes, with a worship, quite different from that paid to God. The word “worship” is expressive not only of the supreme adoration paid to God, which, according to Catholic doctrine, we could pay no creature, ever so exalted, without being guilty of the most heinous crime; but, also of the inferior respect, paid the saints and angels, which is, however, ultimately referred to God himself, and is a homage to his grace and gifts, resplendently displayed in them. Thus, the children of the prophets at Jericho, ”worshipped” Elisha (2 Kings, 2:15). In the very marriage ceremony of Protestants the word is, or, at all events, was employed, to denote respect quite different from divine adoration—”and wiih my body I thee worship.”’ Hence, the fairest rule for knowing whether the word is employed in a sense expressive of supreme worship, is, to ascertain the meaning attached to it by the society, among whom it is in use, and the acts expressed by it, practised. Should this fair test be applied to the worship of saints by Catholics, there can be no grounds whatever for the clumsy charge of idolatory, on this head. They ought themselves to be the best judges of what their Church teaches, and of what they themselves believe and practise, on this and on every other subject.
1Jn 2:3 And by this we know that we have known him, if we keep his commandments.
And the probable test or mark, whereby we can ascertain, as far as can be ascertained in this life, that we have known him with a practical and effective knowledge of love and charity is, if we observe his commandments.
The Apostle proceeds to inculcate the necessity of good works against the heretics who put forward the sufficiency of faith only. “By this we know,” as far as it is given us here below to ascertain, that is to say, with great probability, “that we have known him “—the word “known” expresses a knowledge of love and affection; it means, that we have loved him, a signification the word frequently bears in sacred Scripture (Jeremiah 31:34; Wisdom 15:2; and Gospel of John 10:14); “if we keep his commandments;” but as no one can be infallibly sure that he observes God’s commandments, in every respect: so, neither can he be infallibly sure that he enjoys the charity and friendship of God.—See Council of Trent, SS. vi. 9.
1Jn 2:4 He who saith that he knoweth him and keepeth not his commandments is a liar: and the truth is not in him.
Whosoever says that he knows him, in the sense already expressed, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
“He who saith that he knoweth him” (in Greek, ο λεγων οτι εγνωκα αυτον, he who saith I have known him), with the eftective knowledge of love already explained; in other words, he who saith that he loves God or Christ, “and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar;” for the test of his love (verse 3) is wanting; and hence, his pretences are proved to be false, “and the truth is not in him,” he asserts what is untrue.
1Jn 2:5 But he that keepeth his word, in him in very deed the charity of God is perfected. And by this we know that we are in him.
But on the other hand, whosoever observeth his commandments, in him the charity or love which we bear to God is genuine and sincere; and it is by observing his word, we can for a very probable conjecture, that we are united to him by charity, and have society with him.
In this verse, the Apostle, by an antithesis, confirms his assertion, made in the preceding one. “But he that keepeth his word,” that is, his commandments, particularly that which regards the love of our neighbour, including the love of our enemy, “in him in very deed, the charity of God,” that is, the charity or love we have for God, “is perfected,” that is, sincere and genuine; it is as sincere and genuine as our love of God can be in this life, notwithstanding the numerous venial sins and frailties to which we are all subject (1 Jn 1:8). Others understand “perfected” of the external manifestation of our charity. In such a person the charity or love he bears to God is not merely confined to the mind, it is externally maniiested in its fruits, which is the perfection of charity; for, all charity, which is externally manifested, is more perfect than that which is confined to the mind. It is in the same sense that sin is said by St. James to be perfected or “completed,” (James 1:15). “And by this,” that is, by observing his word, “we know,” as far as we can know in this life—viz., by a probable conjecture, “that we are m him,” united to him by love and friendship.