Feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist
(I John 1:1-4)
Once a disillusioned pilgrim to Bethlehem returned home lamenting the conditions he encountered. Not only was there strife between Jews and Arabs, but hawkers constantly besieged him with their trinkets. The situation in the Holy Land, the pilgrim concluded, has certainly deteriorated since Christ’s time.
Although the Gospel of Luke depicts a tranquil setting for Jesus’ birth, there is much evidence in the New Testament of conflict. In John’s gospel Jesus conducts a running debate with the Jews who try to kill him. The Letters of John report a feud between the community of the beloved disciple and a secessionist group who apparently believed that morals do not matter. We can add to the evidence that strife abounded in New Testament times all we know from history about the Roman occupation and Jewish liberation efforts.
In spite of all this conflict, the writer of the First Letter of John offers a testimony of hope. Much more than a vision, the testimony involves a real human being – one looked upon with his eyes, heard with his ears, and touched with his hands. He is saying that in the midst of the turmoil, Jesus, the Word of life, has promised everlasting life to his followers. For those who follow Jesus’ commands – not just that of love in the gospel but also what the Spirit since Jesus’ ascension – he will give an eternal reward. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we should be asking ourselves if we have been true to the Word of life.