27 December. Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist
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.
Recognising the Risen Christ
It is right to celebrate the Evangelist John soon after Christmas Day. The opening nes 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 eye witness testimony of the man 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 show that Jesus loved and loves all his disciples equally. He said to all of his disciples 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.
Like the Beloved Disciple
Saint John the Evangelist several times mentions and especially “beloved disciple” – the one who leaned against the heart of Christ, at the last Supper, and who stood with our Lady at the foot of the cross while Jesus was dying. We are called to the same friendship of warmth and love that defined the relationship between Jesus and the Beloved Disciple. It is not enough for us to simply do something because it is obligated – that is the way of the Mosaic code, simply keeping to the letter of the law. As disciples of Christ we are called to a more personal kind of following, to develop a relationship of love and friendship with Our Lord, following his example as well as his words. This can only happen in the context of regular prayer and asking his guidance. It also calls us frequent with him through the sacrament of the holy Eucharist. Prayer and frequent Communion – by these two means we are enabled not only to do what is asked of us, but to actually want to do it.
A deep intimacy with the Lord enabled the Beloved Disciple to recognize Jesus on the lakeshore, after the Resurrection, and to point him out to Peter after the miraculous catch of fish. In this Christmas season we meditate on the deep mystery of Incarnation: that the Word was made flesh, that God became man. Our faith tells us that God wants to be accessible to us and invites us to develop the divine life within us. Yet for many of us, God often seems hidden, distant. But Jesus has come to us, continues to come to us daily, and waits for our response. We like St John are called to respond to this divine initiative, to recognise the risen Lord and develop our friendship with Him. If we have a conversion of heart Our Lord will dwell more fully within us. Then we truly carry him with us and both bring Him to others and recognize Him in others. In this way we build up the community of believers, a family of faith which is worthy to be called after the name of the Beloved Disciple.