Tuesday December 27, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Feast of Saint John
Reading (1 John 1:1-4) Gospel (St. John 20:1a, 2-8)
In the Gospel reading today, we see a situation that we have all experienced to some degree, that is, when something occurs in our lives it gives us insight and understanding so that we can then look back and suddenly all of the pieces start falling into place, and we say, “Oh, that’s what that was all about! Now I understand it.” When Saint John went into the tomb, he saw and he believed–and then he understood–which is why he could then write to us, saying, What we have seen from the beginning, what our eyes have seen, what our ears have heard, what we have looked upon and touched with our hands is the Word that was made visible. He did not have full understanding of Who Jesus was when He was alive; it was only in His death and resurrection that Saint John would be able to understand. This is why also at the beginning of his Gospel he would be able to say, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, because he came to understand through the death and resurrection of Christ.
He had been faithful to Our Lord, was with Him even on Calvary, the only one of the disciples who had been with Jesus right to the very end; yet, at the same time, still not understanding, being there more as a friend who would be supportive rather than as an apostle and as a disciple who was there to learn from his master and to bring the message out into the world. But now that he has understood, he can turn around and say to us, We are writing this so that you too may have fellowship with us, and he also says, so that our joy may be complete. He understood that if he was going to have the joy that Our Lord desires for each one of us, it was only going to be by spreading the word of Jesus Christ, it was only going to be by going beyond himself. It was not just a “me and Jesus” kind of thing. It was not just “I’ll have communion with the Lord over here all by myself.” But he understood that if we were going to have fellowship with the Father and the Son, it was only going to be able to happen in the fullness of the Mystical Body. And so he desired, then, to spread the news about Christ. He understood that the more people understood Jesus, the more they believed and accepted Him, the more people loved our Lord, the more that the joy of each one who already believes would be completed. So too it is with us. Once we have peered into the reality of Christ, into the mystery that has been revealed to us, as Saint John tells us, then we too understand that it is not just a personal thing; but we have to also spread the Gospel, we have to bring Christ to others, and our joy will be complete only when there are more who believe in the Lord, when there are more who love and serve the Lord. That is the example we see in Saint John.
Now we have to understand again, as we look at ourselves, that he was with Jesus every day for three years and he still did not understand until he was able to look into the tomb and see the burial cloths that were there and that Our Lord had resurrected. So as we struggle along in our own faith, we realize that we too have failed somehow to understand even though we have been with the Lord all this time. But as that understanding grows, as the Lord touches our hearts and we can suddenly see the light bulb go on and say, “Now I get it,” then suddenly what we have believed we now begin to understand; the mystery is revealed to us more and more clearly. When that happens, we realize that what we want more than anything is for everyone to know this truth, for everyone to believe, and for everyone to have union with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And it is only in that that our joy will be complete.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.