Tuesday, 25 February 2014

ST. JOHN 1: 6-9


                          1: There was a man sent from God whose name was John.

Suddenly in the midst of this beautiful teaching, hymn really, about the LOGOS, the Word, the Evangelist inserts this statement about the Baptist.

I have always been struck by the indication that the Baptist did not appear on the scene, as it were, does not say what he subsequently says of his own accord.

Rather the Evangelist is precise, the Baptist is a man sent from God.

He is thus a man on, and a man with, a mission, a mission to point towards the One, the Word, the Truth-Bearer and the Light-Bearer: Jesus.

Several centuries before the Baptist set forth on his mission another missionary-prophet, Isaiah, had cried out to God for the whole human family: If only You would tear open the heavens and come down…” [Is. 64:1]

Jesus is the answer to this cry.

He is God come down, bringing the love of the Father, bringing light, truth, life, hope, redemption, in His very Person, Lamb of God who will lay down His life for us.

Jesus comes down at a very specific time in history; in the line through His human family that reaches all the way back to the Garden where His promised coming was first announced.

He comes among us Incarnate by the power of the Holy Spirit and the fiat, the yes of a woman, the Virgin Mary, His Mother, ably protected and loved by St. Joseph who will be called upon to save the child from those who would kill Him, to teach the boy to become a man with a trade, a carpenter, the son of a carpenter.

Our Lady Herself, present throughout the life of Jesus will witness His passion, and in that moment say yes to become the Mother of us all.

What St. John the Evangelist reveals throughout the Gospel, what St. John the Baptist has been sent to announce is what every human being has waited for through the millennia since the expulsion from the Garden: what every human being in this very moment, who has either not yet heard the Good News about Jesus or having heard has not yet said yes to Him, hungers for still.

Erasmo Levi-Merikakis in his book FIRE OF MERCY HEART OF THE WORD, vol. 1, his commentary on the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew, stresses: If man is to “see the face of God and have life”, it is God Himself who must turn around and reveal Himself to man. [p466]

The Evangelist places before us the reason the Baptist has been sent, and what his mission is: This man came as a witness… [v.7]

In his commentary on the Gospel of John, William Barclay notes that the word witness is one of the key words the Evangelist uses.

The most common notion of a witness in our day is of someone who witnesses an event, such as a car crash, or someone who gives testimony in a court proceeding.

In point of fact the deeper meaning of witness is someone who not only is able to testify about an event but whose very life, very person, is affirmation of the event – thus the powerful witness of martyrs whose very lives, even more so than their words, reveal powerfully the truth of belief in and fidelity to Jesus, as the Baptist himself in his own martyrdom.

To what then, rather to whom, is St. John the Baptist witness?

He has been sent to:….bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. [v.7]

Here seems appropriate to also include this from Levi-Merikakis’ commentary on the healing of the blind men in Matthew 9: 27ff, where Levi-Merikakis references the reality of light and darkness: Personified darkness implores the mercy of the incarnate Light of the World [cf. Jn.9:5]. {p.480}

It is the father of John the Baptist himself, Zechariah who, on the naming of his son in his great prophetic hymn, known commonly as the Benedictus, prayed  by the Church every morning in the Divine Office, announces that: …the Dayspring from on high has visited us; to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death. [cf. Lk. 1:78/79]

Celebrating the radiant Light of the Risen Christ, remembering the real immediacy of everything within the incarnation, during the Easter Vigil the Church exults with ineffable and expressible excitement: May this flame be found still burning by the Morning Star: the one Morning Star who never sets, Christ your Son….

It is all about Jesus Christ and so St. John the Evangelist denotes clearly about the Baptist that: He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. [v.8]

As Church, we bear witness to Jesus the Light every time we proclaim in the Nicene Creed truth rooted in the Gospel, echoing the Prologue from St. John: We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through Him all things were made. For us and for our salvation He came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit He became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.

As I approach reflections on verse 9 another polar vortex is sweeping across North America.

We also are within a few weeks of spring.

Already the sun is moving higher in the sky, the long dark days of winter are yielding to more hours of light.

Light is always stronger, as we know experientially, than darkness.

The splendour of the night sky when gazed upon reveals innumerable points of light, some emanating from stars, many of which have long since ceased to exist, yet their light travels on throughout the cosmos.

Eons ago with the so-called discovery of fire a “man-made” source of light became possible to push back the cold darkness of night.

Over the centuries oil lamps, candles, gas lights and electric lights increased our human ability to struggle against the darkness.

Yet all these sources of light: sun, stars, fire, oil, candles, gas, electricity are constructs, they, none of them, are self actualizing, not a one of them is infinite of infinite being.

Only God Himself is Himself true light.

All other light we experience cannot really enlighten us, certainly cannot permeate our beings.

He Himself IS our light, enlightens us, filling us with His very self, His very light.

The Evangelist affirms this in verse 9: That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.