St. John, Apostle and Evangelist

In today’s First Reading St. John describes his mission as the communication of an experience. As apostle and evangelist St. John, through his Gospel, his letters, and the Book of Revelation, has tried to communicate an experience difficult to put into words. Alongside the more narrative accounts, not only in his Gospel, but in the Gospels of the other evangelists, John, through images and symbols, always strove to communicate the depth and richness of an experience of God, through his Son, that led to faith and communion. In the Acts of the Apostles St. Peter described an apostle’s qualifications: someone “who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection” (Acts 1:21-22). Through their testimony and ministry the Twelve communicated an experience of Christ that drew us into “fellowship” with them and with God.

In today’s Gospel we recall, along with John, one of his most sublime experiences, and experience that changed all our lives forever. Entering the empty tomb on the day of the Resurrection, John simply says that he “saw and believed.” He saw no vision of angels, like Mary Magdalene. He didn’t witness Our Lord directly being risen from the dead. He saw an empty tomb and some linens and in faith he knew his Lord had risen. The empty tomb didn’t mean Our Lord had staged his death: John saw him die on the cross. It didn’t mean Our Lord’s body had been stolen, Mary Magdalene’s “theory.” John knew, in faith, that the empty tomb meant Our Lord had Risen. Death no longer had the last word.

We remember John at Christmastime because his love and faith in Our Lord were always young and pure, just like Our infant Lord at this birth and beyond. Let John and the other evangelists this upcoming year draw you into their experience of faith so that you to can experience afresh Our Lord’s love.

Readings: 1 John 1:1–4; Psalm 97:1–2, 5–6, 11–12; John 20:1a, 2–8. See also Easter Sunday, Mass During the Day.

Christmas, January 7th

Note: These readings are used when Epiphany is observed on a Sunday January 7th or 8th.

Today’s Gospel presents the perfect turning point from the Christmas season to Ordinary Time, which begins soon with the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord. John today knows his mission is almost finished, and it has been successful. He has worked and sacrificed for this moment, the moment when the “Lamb of God,” to use John the Evangelist’s expression, would come and take away the sins of the world. John’s disciples don’t understand; they see Jesus’ gain as John’s loss, as competition, but for John it is a moment of joy, just as the best man is glad to see his friend getting married to a wonderful bride.

In a world that prides itself on self-advancement and self-fulfillment John reminds us that in making others succeed and shine we are fulfilling a greater purpose and will be more blessed as a result. John is content because Jesus is starting to shine. John will still have his moment of darkness in prison, but ultimately the light of Christ will shine when he needs it as well, just before his martyrdom.

At the conclusion of the Christmas season we’re reminded that John and Jesus dedicated themselves to others. Let’s ask the Lord to show us today how we can help others to succeed and to shine as well. It’s the greatest path to fulfillment. Let’s not be afraid about decreasing so that someone we love may increase.

Readings: 1 John 5:14–21; Psalm 149:1–5, 6a, 9b; John 3:22–30.

Friday after Epiphany

In today’s Gospel Our Lord doesn’t want word of healing a leper getting out, but it does. As the news starts to spread, he doesn’t decide to hold a press conference and bask in the admiration of others; rather, he withdraws to be alone and pray. His workload has increased due to word getting around about the miraculous healing, and he doesn’t shy away from it, but he also does not sacrifice his prayer life.

Today Our Lord is teaching us that we all need to take stock of how much quiet prayer time we’re reserving for him. When the weekend comes, is it just a change of noise and activity for us? Perhaps if the leper had paused for a moment of silent prayer and thanksgiving he would have realized that the best way to thank Our Lord would have been to respect his wishes and keep the matter private. Still, Our Lord harbored no resentment toward the leper contributing to an increased workload. That kind of peace and understanding no matter what is thrown at you is a fruit of silence, recollection, and prayer.

The new year is barely a week old, and it’s not too late to make a new resolution. Make a resolution to spend a little time each day in silence, alone with Our Lord, and you’ll be amazed by the peace it gives you throughout the day.

Readings: 1 John 5:5–13; Psalm 147:12–15, 19–20; Luke 5:12–16. See also 12th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday.

Thursday after Epiphany

In today’s Gospel Our Lord reminds us that history has changed with his Incarnation and birth. The things hoped for and prophesied were starting to come true. Today Jesus is addressing the people of his home town. We can overlook how incredible it is that God has a home town at all outside of Heaven. However, he doesn’t try profiting from the home advantage: when he comments on the passage from Isaiah he’d just read, he tells them God’s promises are coming true, and that’s why he’s there: to usher in a new relationship and union with God and an end to evil.

The list of wonders he recalls today don’t just stand on their own. It is Christ who brings us joy, whether we’re spiritually or materially poor. It is Christ who frees us from the evils in which we incarcerate ourselves through our sins. It is Christ who helps us to see when things are dark and uncertain. Lastly, it is he who frees us from the dominion of evil. He doesn’t just do the miracle and go home; he remains a part of our lives and, therefore, nothing can remain the same.

The Christmas season is still with us for a few days. Ask Our Lord to help you to see, to fill you with joy, and to free you from whatever separates you from him. Make this a year acceptable to the Lord.

Readings: 1 John 4:19–5:4; Psalm 72:1–2, 14, 15bc, 17; Luke 4:14–22. See also 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B and 22nd Week in Ordinary Time, Monday.

Wednesday after Epiphany

Mark’s account of Jesus walking on the water and calming the storm is intriguing in today’s Gospel because it continues the account seen in yesterday‘s Gospel regarding the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. Yesterday the story begins with Our Lord looking down compassionately on the crowds and wanting to provide for their needs. Today he sends the disciples across the sea, but even when he stays behind and goes off to pray he is keeping an eye on them. He sees them in difficulty and plans just “to pass by them”: was this a test? What was he expecting from the disciples?

In the end, when everything had settled down, Mark recalls that they had not understood the incident of the loaves and for that reason they were shocked by what had just happened. Perhaps Our Lord expected more faith and trust, and thought that just by passing by them on the water, after he’d just performed the miracle of the multiplication, they’d recognize him and his power and not be afraid. Instead, due to their ignorance and hardened hearts, they didn’t recognize him out on the water and panicked more, thinking death was near. Sometimes it’s easier to recognize Our Lord at work at calm moments and in broad daylight, but in turbulent and dark times we need a more robust faith that believes he is at work even when it’s not clear to us.

Before Our Lord’s Incarnation and birth mankind was in darkness and on stormy waters, and we’d only retained a faint awareness of God’s presence, but as something unsure and at a distance. In becoming flesh Our Lord has gotten into the boat of life with us. He’s still close. Let’s open our hearts to him and foster the faith that helps us see him at work.

Readings: 1 John 4:11–18; Psalm 72:1–2, 10, 12–13; Mark 6:45–52. See also 13th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday.