For those who want to get caught up in issues of gender, the first reading from chapter two of the First Letter of St. John can seem to be patriarchal, because most English translations use children, young men, and fathers as the translation for the three Greek titles that he uses to address his readers. In Greek the terms are less gender specific. And the letter is addressed to everyone.
In fact, St. John is using the words metaphorically to describe three stages of Christian maturity: infancy, youth, and adulthood. (For the Star Wars fans the second word is paidion.) To underscore this point today's gospels ends by telling us that even Jesus:
The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
On this sixth day of Christmas the Church reminds us that being reborn, or born again in Christ is only the first step. Baptism at whatever age gives us an initial forgiveness of sin and incorporation into the body of Christ, the Church. But the goal is still a long way off. There remains in us the tendency to focus on self, to measure our success or failure by worldly standards, and to allow our hungers, both physical and psychological, to drive us.
As we are preparing to enter 2014, now might be a good time for that spiritual assessment. At what stage of spiritual life are you? More importantly, what concrete steps are you going to take to mature in your faith? We humans are not like fruit, we do not simply mature with the passing of time. As time passes we grow older, but that does not mean we mature. To mature requires effort, intentionality;choices must be made.
In this new year are you going to simply grow older or are you going to actually mature? The choice is yours.