St. John, Apostle & Evangelist
1 John 1:1-4 + John 20:1,2-8
“… the life was made visible; we have seen it and testify to it ….”
The First Reading and the Gospel Reading for today’s feast of St. John the Beloved Disciple stand in contrast in an intriguing way. The contrast relates to vision or sight.
Today’s First Reading comes from the first of the three New Testament letters written by today’s saint. In the First Letter of John, the Beloved Disciple speaks about “the Word of life”. This clearly refers to Jesus, whom St. John in the prologue to his Gospel account describes as the divine Word: “the Word was with God, and the Word was God” [John 1:1]. This divine Word became Flesh and dwelt among us [see John 1:14]. Keep in mind that it’s the same scriptural author who in his Gospel account records Jesus stating: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me” [John 14:6].
About this “Word of life”, the Beloved Disciple in today’s First Reading states that “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“. Of course, the divine Word becoming Flesh and dwelling among us—the very mystery at the heart of Christmastide—is what makes it possible to see this divine Word. The spoken word cannot be seen, but the Word made flesh can.
Yet in today’s Gospel Reading, which is set on Easter Sunday morning, there is a literal lack of sight. The Word made flesh, risen from the dead, is nowhere to be seen. Mary Magdalen ran to St. Peter and today’s saint, “and told them, ‘They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we do not know where they put him.’” These two apostles enter the empty tomb and see the burial cloths. The beloved disciple “saw and believed”. Contrast St. John here with St. Thomas the Apostle. St. Thomas would not believe until he saw the Risen Jesus and His wounds. But the Beloved Disciple does not see the Risen Jesus and yet believes. What Jesus said a week after His Resurrection after appearing to St. Thomas applies to the Beloved Disciple, and hopefully also to us: “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”