John makes a rather peculiar assumption in this evening's second reading: "The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him [Jesus]."
"The reason the world does not know us..."
"The world does not know us."
Really? The world does not know us? Is that true? Let's give a face to "the world," and ask the question, "does that guy know me?" I wonder if we're really all that estranged from a personification of "the world."
The world is greed.
He is the desire for more, and more, and more. The world is wanting to have the newest thing, searching for happiness in money and power. The world is having desires fulfilled as soon as possible. He despises patience and loves next day air. The world is greed. Does the world know you?
The world is envy.
The world is always thinking about what other people have, despising the blessings God has given to him. The world looks in the other person's bowl, not to check that they have enough, but to see how unfair it is that they have and he does not. The world is envy. Is he your friend?
St. John assumes that the world does not know us...
The world is gluttony.
The world is perpetually bored, consuming food and drink and entertainment, because, well, what else is there to do? The world stays up all night binge watching TV shows. The world wastes hours on the internet and playing video games. The world is gluttony. Are you a stranger to the world?
The world is lust.
The world pretends to love the sexual act, but actually hates it, using it in all the wrong ways. The world is addicted to pornography, and that doesn't bother him, because everyone uses it, right? The world sees other humans as objects not subjects. The world constantly makes sexist jokes and sexist policies. The world is captivated by someone else's spouse, or a live in girlfriend or boyfriend. The world is lust. Does the world know you?
The world is sloth.
The world is lazy and listless. The world insists that no one encroach on his time. The world sits on the couch and takes for granted those he loves and who love him. He always keeps his options open. The world knows what the right thing to do is, but hesitates to do it, sits on his hands, and it goes undone. The world is sloth. Does the world know you?
The world is anger.
The world knows just what's wrong with people today, what's wrong with everybody else. The world will admit a vague sense that he know's he's not perfect...but do you know what that other guy did? Did you hear? ... The world is a gossip. The world curses uncontrollably, especially when he's driving or watching football. The world is angry with his wife more often than he finds himself enjoying being with her. The world never compromises. The world is anger. How familiar is the world with you?
The world is pride.
The world doesn't listen. The world wants things his way. He's frustrated that people just don't get it. The world rolls his eyes at his superiors, usually behind their back. He's really good at imagining what he should have said to that person. The world is self-absorbed, but at the same time, hates himself, because he knows deep down that he's not as good as he tells everyone else...definitely not as good as the facade he presents on Facebook. The world is pride. Are you a stranger to the world?
Again, St. John takes it for granted that we are strangers to the world, for the saints are. That's why holy people stick out so easily and draw so much criticism. To the extent that they are captivated by heavenly things, their relationship with the world is neglected more and more.
Most saints started out as close friends with the world. They were old drinking buddies. But growing in holiness is sort of like what happens when a person settles down, gets married, gets a job, has kids, matures, or otherwise no longer has time for his immature friends. He feels awkward around them. He doesn't care as much about the things they want to talk and joke about. He has to leave early to get back to his life. Eventually he becomes estranged from them. He says hello every now and then, but his life has changed.
That process of leaving our old "friends" behind is precisely what conversion means. We grow further and further apart from our old drinking buddy, (but we might not even notice it as it's happening). We begin to care about other things and neglect our old friendship with the world.
But here is the question. Here is what determines whether we're on the path to sanctity, that great quality of being a saint:
Who is it that we're growing apart from? Can I more truthfully say:
"I am neglecting my relationship with the world."
"I am neglecting my relationship with God."