Feast of St. John, apostle and evangelist
(I John 1:1-4; John 20:1a.2-8)
In the first couple centuries after Christ, Christians had to contend with the heresy of Docetism. Finding incredible the apostles’ testimony that the Son of God became human, Docetists believed that he only had the appearance of a man but in reality remained a pure spirit. In the section from the Letter to John which we read today, the writer offers a striking rebuttal. “What we…touched with our hands,” the author says, “concerns the Word of life.”
Today we are challenged by the contrary heresy that Jesus was not God at all but only human. Proponents of this way of thinking acknowledge Jesus’ wisdom and goodness but do not think him worth one’s allegiance to death if necessary. According to these detractors, Jesus is just one in a series of many holy men and women including Buddha, Gandhi, and perhaps Mary Baker Eddy.
Some may be attracted to the contemporary rejection of the Christian claim of Jesus’ divinity as freeing faith from mythical elements. But we best not forget that holding it dismisses, in effect, our fellowship with the Father and the Son and, therefore, the promise of eternal life found in the Letter of John. Faithful Catholics will likewise not concur with the idea that Christian belief is mythical. Our reason is not only that such a stance takes away hope for eternal life but, more to the point, because it conflicts directly with the testimony of those, like John, who actually knew Jesus and have told us about him.