In his letter, John speaks of what he knows. "This is what we proclaim to you: what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked upon and our hands have touched---we speak of the word of Life. " (I John 1:1).
Too often I have heard people refuse to wrestle with the reality of God, and that He truly interacts with human beings, by saying "That's your opinion", or "Everything is just somebody's opinion." Is there such a thing as reality, as truth? John, in all his writings, says there is. He is saying that he is one of many people who saw Jesus and what He did. He heard the voice of God on at least three separate occasions, each time validating Jesus. He watched Him die, and experienced Him after His resurrection from the dead. He was there when Jesus commissioned His followers and was taken up into Heaven. He experienced the Holy Spirit, and saw lives changed. This was not opinion, or fantasy, or propaganda, or tale-spinning. What John experienced was hard and fast truth.
The ending of the letter uses the word "know" and the word "true" over again: "We know that we belong to God, but the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. We know too, that the son of "God has come and has given us the power to know the true God. We are in the true God as we are in his Son, Jesus Christ. This is the true God, this is eternal life. Children, be on your guard against false gods." (I John 5:19-21)
This last week much of the world remembered a man of God who, though he lived three hundred years after Jesus, knew from his own life and experience of God that the Gospel was true, and his witness changed the destiny of a country. Most people don't know much about St Patrick except that he was Irish and had some kind of connection with shamrocks. Actually, he wasn't Irish by birth; he was from Roman Britain or Scotland, and had gone to Ireland first as a slave and then as a missionary and bishop. He was a great teacher, and traditionally used the shamrock as an example of the Trinity--one stem with three leaves but still one. He put a great deal of emphasis on teaching; he established a church and school, taking over the royal
We don't have to look far to see the reality of evil in our world, and we can also see good--God has not abandoned us. I have learned more and more that if we stop arguing and start praying--specifically for the situation at hand and against whatever evil influences may be at work--that He can do amazing things,with our small situations, and the world's big ones. St Patrick is a good reminder that one man, with God and His followers, can change not just a country, but spread light beyond what he could dream.