HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF ST. JOHN THE APOSTLE – 27 DECEMBER
HOMILY THEME: ST. JOHN: THE ONE WHOM JESUS LOVED
BY: Fr. Evaristus Abu
“Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran, and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved.” John 20:1-2.
Yesterday, we celebrated the heavenly birthday of a man whose very life teaches us what it means to love as Jesus loved. Today, we are celebrating another man who was so close to Jesus that even the Gospels acknowledged that Jesus loved him more than the other disciples.
Dear friends, the very life of St. John the Apostle contains one message: that Jesus Christ actually took our human flesh; that he was really born like one of us. That a man like St. John existed who was considered to be the beloved of Jesus shows us that the birth of Jesus is not just a figment of imagination; Jesus lived a real human life – he ate human food – he had human feelings – he had friends – he loved people.
Unless we love, we cannot claim to have lived. The defining characteristic of being human is the ability to open one’s heart in love to another. Jesus was everything human and he so displayed his humanity through his friendship with his disciples and with John in particular who we may rightly call his best friend.
Was it necessary for Jesus to have had a best friend? Wasn’t he supposed to love everybody equally? Of course, our human experience already shows us that no matter how we try to love people, there would always be a special one. It wasn’t like Jesus had a choice; as a real human being, he just couldn’t help it. He must have tried to love everybody equally but among the crowd that flocked around him, there were twelve he drew closer, and among the twelve, there were three who made up the inner caucus (Peter, James and John) and even among the three, there was a special one; John.
Even today, many scholars and even atheists are still baffled about the kind of closeness that existed between Jesus and John the Apostle. Leonardo Da Vinci in his favourite painting of the Lord’s Supper tried to portray John as a woman wearing the same pattern of dress with Jesus and leaning beside Jesus.
Recall that when Jesus revealed that someone was about to betray him, Peter beckoned on John to ask Jesus because Peter knew how close John was to Jesus. Jesus then whispered that it was the person who he shall give the morsel of bread after dipping it in wine. Lo and behold, Jesus dipped the bread and gave it to Judas Iscariot. John 13:23-26. For Jesus to have revealed this secret to John right at table, it again tells us how close Jesus was to him.
In fact, as the Gospel of John tells us, some of Jesus’ disciples assumed that John will live forever. In John 21:21-23, we read: “When Peter saw him (John), he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!’ The saying spread abroad among the brethren that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?’”
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No wonder, when later on, John was writing his letters, he started by saying that this Jesus he is talking about is a Jesus he had personal contact with. In other words, Jesus is not simply a figment of imagination. John said: “that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands…”
Indeed, as our Gospel passage today shows, John ran faster than Peter to the tomb when Mary Magdalene delivered the message that the body of Jesus was no longer there. The speed of John was not a matter of age or strength, it was a matter of love and devotion for a dear friend. He got there first but waited for Peter as a mark of respect before going in and reporting for himself, John said: “he saw and believed.”
Now, where does all these lead to? As part of our Christmas celebrations, the story of John the beloved draws us to open our hearts to love Jesus. And you know, the more we love Jesus, the more Jesus draws us closer and closer to himself. The more we get close to Jesus, the more we get to know many things that we did not know before and our lives become living examples to others of what loving Jesus can be.
Let us Pray: Lord Jesus, you have a heart capable of love, make me open my heart to you just like John did. Amen.
Merry Christmas. Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Feast of St. John the Apostle. Bible Study: 1st John 1:1-4 and John 20:2-8).
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