Monday, December 27, 2010

The Beloved Disciple – The Feast Day of St John the Evangelist

Because of the depth of his Gospel, St John is usually thought of as the eagle of theology, soaring in high regions that other writers did not enter.

Gospel text (Jn 20:2-8): On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala ran to Peter and the other disciple whom Jesus loved. And she said to them, «They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don't know where they have laid him». Peter then set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down and saw the linen cloths lying flat, but he did not enter. Then Simon Peter came following him and entered the tomb; he, too, saw the linen cloths lying flat. The cloth, which had been around his head was not lying flat like the other linen cloths but lay rolled up in its place. Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and believed.

Today, the liturgy celebrates the festivity of Saint John , Apostle and Evangelist. The first day after Christmas, the Church celebrates Saint Stephen's day, the first martyr of the Christian faith. And the following day is the feast of Saint John . Saint John is the one who better and most deeply understood the mystery of the Word Incarnate. John was the very first “theologian” and best example for any other true theologian. Today's proposed fragment of his Gospel helps us to consider Christmas from the perspective of the Lord's Resurrection. Indeed, when John arrived to the empty tomb, «he saw and believed» (Jn 20:8). Trusting the Apostles’ testimony, every Christmas we are stimulated to ‘see’ and ‘believe’, too.

We can also find these same words “see” and “believe” in connection with Jesus' birth, the Verb incarnated. Pushed by his heart's intuition —and we should add, by “grace”— John “sees” beyond what, at that time, his eyes cannot yet see. In fact, he believes without “having yet seen” the Christ; and receives the praise of those «who haven't seen me and believe anyway» (Jn 20:29), that ends chapter twenty of his Gospel.

Peter and John “run” together towards the tomb, but the text says John «outran Peter and reached the tomb first» (Jn 20:4). It seems that the desire to be again by the side of the One he loved —Christ— was stronger than that of physically being next to Peter, with whom, however —by waiting for him and allowing him to be the first to enter the tomb— he shows that it is Peter who holds the primacy of the Apostolic College. Yet, it is his ardent heart, full of zeal, John's impassionate love, which impels him to “run” and “outrun”, in a clear invitation for us to equally live our faith with such a fervent desire to see the Resurrection.

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