The Feast of St. John the Apostle follows closely the birth of Jesus because in his gospel and letters John answers the great question: Who is Jesus? Who is this child, born of Mary in a stable? Who is this person we see in his hidden life, his public ministry, and his death and resurrection.
Called by Jesus himself at the Sea of Galilee, John saw Jesus transfigured on the mountain, he sat beside him at the Last Supper; he went into the Garden of Gethsemane with him. Finally, he stood beside his cross, he saw the empty tomb and met him risen from the dead.
Tradition says John was the last of the apostles to die. His gospel and his letters–which circulated among his followers– testify to the church’s firm, mature belief in both the divinity and humanity of Jesus.
“In the beginning was the Word,” John states in the opening verses of his gospel, one of the principal readings for the Christmas feast. In his letters, which we read at Mass most of the days after Christmas until the Feast of the Baptism, the apostle upholds the humanity of Jesus against those who said that God would not possibly take human form.
In a beautiful way, John recasts the sublime words from the prologue of his gospel and testifies that the Word of God became flesh and we know him through his humanity, just as his apostles did.
“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.” 1 John 1-4