It’s (one of) my feast day(s) today, and happy feast day also to all who bear the name of John the Apostle and evangelist.
St. John’s feast is an appropriate feast day for these days after Christmas since Christmas is about love and John in his gospel writes: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
I witnessed and experienced much love on Christmas day. At the 8.00am Mass at St. Mary’s pro-Cathedral I saw families united bringing their sick and elderly. Then at Christchurch hospital I visited patients being loving cared for by staff many of who were giving twelve hours of their Christmas day to care those who were unable to be home with family and friends. After the hospital I was with family, and then back to the presbytery for the midday dinner. Later in the day I was with good friends sharing and savouring the wonderful relaxation that happens towards the end of Christmas day.
“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 God-with-us and who we can see, hear and touch in the concrete circumstances of our own experience, a God whom we can “see with our own eyes” and “touch with our hands – divine life made visible to us.
Perhaps the greatest human error is to think of Jesus as one more good man among many, a 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 these 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 use your senses engage with Jesus in the midst of today’s joys and anxieties. Listen to Him. Speak with Him, Know that He is embracing you with love.