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. Evidently finding incredible the apostles’ testimony that the Son of God actually became human, Docetists believed that he only had the semblance of a man but remained a 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 of implicit following. According to these detractors, Jesus is just one in a series of many holy men and women including Buddha, Gandhi, and maybe Mary Baker Eddy.
Some of us may be attracted to the contemporary rejection of the Christian claim of Jesus’ divinity as freeing faith from mythical elements. It also dismisses, in effect, our fellowship with the Father and the Son and the promise of eternal life found in the Letter of John. We do not concur with the idea that Christian belief is mythical. It is not so much because such a stance takes away our hope but, more to the point, because it conflicts directly with what those who, like John, actually knew Jesus have told us about him.