Tag Archives: St. John

The Word Made Visible

 

 

John evangelist

 

The Feast of St.John the Apostle (December 27) follows the birth of Jesus because the writings attributed to John– the 4th gospel and letters– treat the great question: Who is Jesus, the child born of Mary, who lived in Nazareth, preached in Galilee and Judea, died and rose again in Jerusalem?

John was one of the first disciples called by Jesus at the Sea of Galilee to bear witness to him; John sat beside him at the Last Supper; he went into the Garden of Gethsemane with him, then stood beside his cross. 

As the gospel reading for his feast reminds us, John saw the empty tomb and recognized Jesus risen from the dead. “‘It is the Lord,’ the other disciples whom Jesus loved said to Peter” on the Lake of Galilee as the Risen Christ appears. (John 21, 7) John has a special role identifying Jesus as human and divine. 

Tradition says John was the last of the apostles to die, and so writings identified with him proclaiming belief in both the divinity and humanity of Jesus had special authority in the early church. 

The gospel of John is assigned as the final gospel for Christmas day: “In the beginning was the Word.” The letters of John read at Mass most of the days after Christmas until the Feast of the Baptism continue to proclaim a theme of the gospel of John, that the Word became flesh, and  uphold the humanity of Jesus against those who deny the possibility that God would take human form. 

We know Jesus Christ through his humanity, just as the apostles did, the Ist Letter of John says. The One we know through his humanity is also the Word of God who is God.

“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

All Saints Day

 

Christ alpha om

We usually think of Mary, the mother of Jesus, apostles like Peter and Paul, or extraordinary individuals like Mother Teresa when we think of saints. True friends of God.

Besides  them, the Feast of Saints reminds us of unnumbered others in God’s company. In a vision of heaven, St. John saw “a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.” {Revelations 7, 9-13} We hope we will join them one day.

Our hope rests on a promise Jesus made:

“See what love the Father has bestowed on us
that we may be called the children of God.
Yet so we are…
Beloved, we are God’s children now;
what we shall be has not yet been revealed.” (1 John 3,1-3)

How shall we reach that place where we’ll be revealed as children of God? Jesus says to follow him and live as he taught. He shows the way in his Sermon on the Mount, our gospel reading for this feast. He will be the way, the truth and the life.

We haven’t seen yet that promised  life. We haven’t completed our lives here yet. This feast reminds us of the hope God reveals.

Extraordinary saints are not the only ones in heaven. There is a multitude of others, not a few. God welcomes countless others, saints unnoticed here on earth, saints with little to show, saints who were sinners. People like us.

Celebrating  this feast, remember your destiny, St. Bernard says:

“Rise again with Christ and seek the world above and set your mind on heaven. Long for those who are longing for us; hasten to those who are waiting for us, ask those who are looking for our coming to intercede for us. Desire their company and seek a share in their glory. There’s no harm in being ambitious for this. No danger in setting your heart on such glory.

“Remembering the saints inflames us with a yearning that Christ our life may appear to us as he appeared to them and that one day we may share in his glory.”

The Word of God

Here’s a Christmas sermon by St. Augustine, who’s reflecting on the mystery of Jesus Christ. If you think about it, many of the paradoxes we see in him are analogously evident in us. “Wonderfully, fearfully made,” “children of God” we are godlike, yet at the same time we experience the limits of a fallen humanity. Revealing who he is, the Word made flesh reveals who we are.

The Word of God, maker of time, becoming flesh was born in time.
Born today, he made all days.
Ageless with the Father, born of a mother, he began counting his years.
Man’s maker became man; the ruler of the stars sucked at a mother’s breasts,
Bread hungered,
the Fountain thirsted,
the way was wearied by the journey,
the truth was accused by false witnesses,
the life slept in death,
the judge of the living and the dead was judged by a human judge,
justice was condemned by injustice,
the righteous was beaten by whips,
the cluster of grapes was crowned with thorns,
the upholder of all hung from a tree,
strength became weak,
health was stricken with wounds,
life died.
He humbled himself that we might be raised up.
He suffered evil that we might receive good,
Son of God before all days, son of man these last days,
from the mother he made, from the woman who would never be, unless he made
her. (Augustine, Sermon 191, 1; PL 38, 1010)

Readings here.

The Days That Follow Christmas

We follow the Feast of Christmas with the feasts of St. Stephen and St. John, two saints who point to the meaning of this mystery:

“The love that brought Christ from heaven to earth raised Stephen from earth to heaven,” St. Fulgentius says of the martyr who was put to death for proclaiming his belief in Jesus Christ.

St. Augustine comments on John’s words: “We proclaim to you what we have heard and seen.”

“Make sure that you 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 they proclaimed the message to us. So we also have heard, although we have not seen.

“Are we then 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, and we have not seen; 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 we write this to you to make your joy complete – complete in that fellowship, in that love and in that unity.”

John’s letters and gospel are read at Mass on the days that follow the Feast of Christmas.

All Saints

Years ago I wrote a book on the lives of the saints honored in our church calendar. Saints like Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the apostles, the martyrs, founders of great religious orders, men and women recognized for their great holiness.

It was a hard book to write and I’ve never felt satisfied with it. My dissatisfaction isn’t just  from not capturing their lives as well as I would have liked. I think it’s because we can’t capture what the saints experience at all.

A saint is someone who enjoys a completed life, a life we haven’t seen yet, a life we hope for. “We feebly struggle while they in glory shine.” We can never capture the final steps of their story.

The letter of St. John we read today on the Feast of All Saints tells us that. We haven’t seen yet what God intends us to be. We haven’t completed our lives yet; we complete our lives when we join the company of the saints.

“See what love the Father has bestowed on us

that we may be called the children of God.

Yet so we are…

Beloved, we are God’s children now;

what we shall be has not yet been revealed.”

The saints we honor in our calendar led extraordinary lives; they were shining examples of faith, hope and love and changed the world they lived in.  What’s interesting about today’s feast of All Saints is its promise that they’re not the only ones in heaven. There are unnumbered saints in God’s company, saints who lived obscurely, without any sign of the extraordinary.

People like us.

I like St. Bernard’s advice about saint-watching in today’s Office of Readings:

“We must rise again with Christ, we must seek the world which is above and set our mind on the things of heaven. Let us long for those who are longing for us, hasten to those who are waiting for us, and ask those who look for our coming to intercede for us. We should not only want to be with the saints, we should also hope to possess their happiness. While we desire to be in their company, we must also earnestly seek to share in their glory. Do not imagine that there is anything harmful in such an ambition as this; there is no danger in setting our hearts on such glory.

When we commemorate the saints we are inflamed with another yearning: that Christ our life may also appear to us as he appeared to them and that we may one day share in his glory.”