Keys to Spiritual Life

Scripture Reading

We have this confidence in God,
that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 
And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask,
we know that what we have asked him for is ours. 
If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly,
he should pray to God and he will give him life.
This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. 
There is such a thing as deadly sin,
about which I do not say that you should pray. 
All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly.

We know that no one begotten by God sins;
but the one begotten by God he protects,
and the Evil One cannot touch him.
We know that we belong to God,
and the whole world is under the power of the Evil One. 
We also know that the Son of God has come
and has given us discernment to know the one who is true. 
And we are in the one who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. 
He is the true God and eternal life. 
Children, be on your guard against idols.

(1 John 5:14-21)


Scripture Study

5:14 if we ask anything: The children of God (3:1) can approach the Father with the filial confidence that he hears us and desires to meet our needs (Lk 11:9–13). This is made possible through Christ, whose holy name gives us access to the heavenly throne (Jn 14:13–14; Heb 4:16; CCC 432).

 5:16–17 John distinguishes between sin that is deadly (Gk., “unto death”) and sin that is not deadly (Gk., “not unto death”). The reference is to spiritual death rather than physical death. Sinning unto death means sinning so grievously that one forfeits the indwelling “life” of Christ (5:12) and lapses back into a state of “death” (the reverse of 3:14). The evil in view is probably “apostasy”, i.e., the sin of the heretical secessionists who denied the truth of apostolic doctrine (2:22) and severed themselves from the life and liturgy of the apostolic Church (2:19). Sin that does not lead to death weakens one’s fellowship with God and requires cleansing and forgiveness (1:6–9) but does not extinguish the divine life abiding within (3:24). It is unclear why John does not ask believers to pray for persons guilty of deadly sins. Whatever the reason, his words do not imply that such a one is beyond the reach of God’s mercy or incapable of future repentance. ● Catholic moral theology adopts this distinction between mortal and nonmortal (venial) sins. Venial offenses can be forgiven by prayers of contrition and other means, but, ordinarily, mortal sins cannot be forgiven apart from the absolution and restorative grace of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (CCC 1854–64). See note on 1 Jn 1:9.

5:18–20 John concludes with a synopsis of several themes from the letter. Each verse in succession declares what believers “know” with the certitude of faith.

5:18 does not sin: On the meaning of this, see note on 1 Jn 3:6.

5:20 the true God: An assertion of Christ’s divinity that balances John’s persistent emphasis on Christ’s humanity (1:1–2; 4:2; 5:6–8; CCC 464). These words could describe the Father, but they more likely refer to his Son Jesus Christ in the preceding sentence. eternal life: Also a reference to Christ, who is the embodiment of divine life (1:2).

5:21 idols: The confession that Christ is the “true God” (5:20) implies that every pagan deity is a false god unworthy of worship. Idolatry was everywhere present in Asia Minor, where i Greek he. John’s readers probably lived (CCC 2112).[1]

Scripture Reflection

The caretaker of a large estate felt very important when he was given a key ring filled with the keys to each building on the property. However, he was soon put in his place. He discovered that the estate owner carried only one key—the master key that could open every door.

John tells us faith is the master key to the spiritual life. If we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, we can open any door that takes us deeper into our life with him—not because of the “keys” we possess like our own intelligence or courage, but because we are trusting in who Jesus is.

So how do we use this “master key” to open any door? Let’s look at a few examples.

One door may be the door of joy. You can open that door by believing that Jesus has redeemed you from every sin, every judgment, and all condemnation. Just as he said to the woman caught in adultery, he says to you, “Neither do I condemn you” (John 8:11). Imagine how it feels to have the burden of guilt lifted off of you—that’s joy!

Another door may be the door of mercy—the grace to forgive someone who has hurt you. You can open that door by believing that Jesus is the Lamb of God (John 1:29). Not only has he taken away your sins, but he also has taken away the sins that other people have committed against you. Cry out to him, and ask him to soften your heart.

A third door may be the door of peace. We can become so anxious about a family member who has made poor choices that we end up feeling paralyzed and helpless. Open that door by believing that Jesus is the good shepherd who seeks and saves his lost sheep (John 10:11). In faith, hand this person over to Jesus, and ask him to lead them home.

No door is too heavy for you to open. No door has a “Do Not Enter” sign on it. Like the estate owner, you have the key to open them all. Let that truth sink in, and let it strengthen your faith.

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV. 



[1] The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 474.