You may have noticed that my post yesterday mistakenly featured the feast of the Holy Innocents instead of St John whose feast-day it actually was. It wasn’t that I had just mixed up the website dates since I even turned up at Mass prepared for the wrong feast! So today, which really is the Holy Innocents’ feast, I’m going to share a thought from St. John which is also ideal for these eight days of Christmas – the Christmas Octave.
“The greatest joy in life is to feel Jesus Christ alive and beating in the flesh of your own thought and your own heart. All the rest is a swift illusion or dung.” Giussani 1946
Giussani’s lively and vivid emphasis mirrors the immediacy of the first letter of St John which (according to Wikipedia) “was written to counter docetism, -the belief that Jesus did not come “in the flesh” but only as a spirit”. This also reminds us of St Paul: “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8)
John’s letter opens:
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.
Both Saint John and Don Giussani emphasise how essential it is to actually experience Jesus Christ, a visible and tangible person who we can see, hear and touch in the concrete circumstances of our own experience.
Perhaps the greatest tragedy is to think of Jesus as no-one more than a good man and wise teacher who lived and died 2000 years ago.
In strong contrast with this all-too-common view John and Giussani emphasise Jesus Christ as a living person with whom we are created to live in relationship, not as a reward for our good behaviour, but as the one who enables us to fully live.
As today’s two teachers remind us, to live in relationship with Jesus is the best of both earthly friendship and heavenly power.
Take two or three or five minutes now to be still and silent and to engage your senses (especially sight, hearing and touch) with the reality of your own circumstances.
Then speak with Jesus about today’s joys and anxieties, asking him to bring you both his friendship and power.