27 December 2017. Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist. Feast

1st Reading. 1 John 1:1-4

What we have seen with our eyes, what we have touched with our hands

Beloved: What was from the beginning, what we have heard,what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life.

For the life was made visible; we have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was made visible to us. What we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; for our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing this so that our joy may be complete.

Gospel: John 20:2-8

Peter and John run to see the empty tomb of Jesus

On the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we do not know where they put him.”

So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.

When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed.


If the Word had not been made flesh

Who could ever touch the Word with his hands unless the Word was made flesh and lived among us? Now this Word, whose flesh was so real that he could be touched by human hands, began to be flesh in the Virgin Mary’s womb; but he did not begin to exist at that moment. We know this from John’s phrase: “What existed from the beginning.” See how the letter bears witness to his Gospel, where it says: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.”

Some might interpret the phrase Word of Life to mean a word about Christ, rather than his body itself which was touched by human hands. But see what comes next: “and life itself was revealed.” Christ therefore is himself the Word of life. And how was this life revealed? “It existed from the beginning,” but at first it was not revealed to men, only to angels, who looked upon it and feasted upon it as their own spiritual bread. Then what does Scripture say? “Mankind ate the bread of angels.” Life itself was therefore revealed in the flesh. In this way what was visible to the heart alone became visible also to the eye, and so could heal the human hearts. For the Word appears to the heart alone, while flesh is visible to bodily eyes as well. We had the means to see the flesh, but we had no means of seeing the Word. The Word was made flesh so that we could see it, to heal that part of us by which we could see the Word.

John continues: “We are witnesses and we proclaim to you that eternal life which was with the Father and has been revealed among us” — one might say more simply “revealed to us”. Be sure to grasp the meaning of these words. The disciples saw our Lord in the flesh, face to face; they heard the words he spoke, and in turn proclaimed the message to us. So we too have heard, although we have not seen.

Are we less favoured than those who both saw and heard? If that were so, why should John add: “so that you too may have fellowship with us?” They saw what we have not seen; and yet we have fellowship with them, because we and they share the same faith. And our fellowship is with God the Father and Jesus Christ his Son. And John wrote this to make our joy complete — complete in that fellowship, in that love and in that unity.

(From a homily of St Augustine on St John’s First Epistle)

One who recognised the Risen Christ

It is right to celebrate John the Evangelist soon after Christmas Day. The opening lines of his gospel sum up in a few words what we are celebrating at Christmas, ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.’ This, the last of the four gospels to be written, is based on the eyewitness testimony of favoured one described as the disciple Jesus loved. This could give the impression that Jesus loved this disciple more than all the other disciples. But other texts suggest that Jesus loved and loves all his disciples equally. He said to them all as a group, and indeed says to us also, ‘As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.’ We are all beloved disciples.

What distinguishes this particular disciple from the others, according to John’s gospel, is that he received and responded to the love of Jesus more fully than all the others did. According to this gospel, he was the only male disciple who was present at the foot of the cross; he remained faithful when others had shown themselves to be unfaithful. His faithful love brought him to the empty tomb quicker than Peter; his faithful love gave him the insight to recognize the true meaning of the empty tomb before any else understood its meaning, ‘he saw and believed.’ He is the disciple who encourages all of us to give ourselves wholeheartedly in love to Jesus as he has given himself fully to us.

One Comment

  1. Jerry Peth says:

    Thank you for the thoughtful reflection. It was very inspiring. Merry Christmas to all from America.

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