Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. John the Evangelist, the “Beloved Disciple,” who is traditionally believed to be the author of the Gospel of John. John was a historical figure, one of the “pillars” of the church in Jerusalem following Jesus’ death and resurrection. Around 95 AD, he is believed to have been exiled to the island of Patmos, where he wrote the book of Revelation and taught various believers who came to visit him in exile. He is the only one of the original 12 apostles to not have been killed for his faith and died in old age around the year 100 AD. Depicted in art as a young man, John is also represented by an eagle, which is one of the figures envisioned by the prophet Ezekiel and in John’s Revelation.
Have you ever gone on a long trip or ever moved away from your dear family and friends, and desired so much to be with them, to spend time with them, to talk to them and enjoy their company? Oftentimes, we pick up the phone and we can hear the voices of our loved ones. We in our modern world use video chat services like FaceTime and Skype to see and interact with them on a deeper level. That, however, is very rarely enough to satisfy our desire to be with one another, to learn from our elders and relatives and to laugh and be silly with our friends. Being with them gives an added sense of love and friendship and guidance and comfort that indirect means of communication cannot do.
In our first reading for this great feast, we read John’s own words discussing what he had the immense blessing in his life to experience with regard to the message of the Gospel. John, as one of the original 12 apostles, got to walk with Jesus, hear the message of the Good News of salvation from His mouth, see the miracles He worked, and even see the salvation of the world as his Teacher, his Master, hung dying on the cross with the weight of the world’s sins past, present, and future, on his shoulders. John says that what he does in preaching the Gospel is because of “what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life” (1John 1:1). John was in a very special place to witness these miracles, as Scripture calls him “the beloved disciple,” “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” and he is the one to whom Jesus gave his mother to be taken care of. In preaching the Good News of salvation, and in his writings to the Christians who came to hear him, he is preaching what he himself has personally witnessed and is passing on to the readers of his letter, even down to us today. How truly blessed was he who touched the feet which bore the wounds which brought us salvation! How truly blessed to experience the miracles, the healings, and the walking on the water. How truly blessed to preach from his own experience that Jesus is Lord.
Sometimes in our Christian journey, it feels like we have to connect to the Lord through indirect means, like we would be connected with one another through FaceTime or Skype, or even the phone. Because we can’t physically touch Jesus, physically hear His voice as He speaks words of grace, of healing, of miracle, we may feel disconnected from Him and the work that He does in the world. We sometimes can feel like our prayer isn’t getting through and that we aren’t having the relationship with Jesus that we so desperately feel called to have. While it may feel that we can only connect to Him through indirect means we too, like John, can have those direct experiences with the mercy and grace and goodness of God. While in our life’s journey we become distracted, we should take a breath and look around and see the blessings, the graces, and the miracles that our Lord is working around us each and every day. Look at the beauty of the created world and the blessing of faith, and like John, share it. Like John, let us proclaim Jesus Christ, for “this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us” (1John 1:2). We don’t need technology to feel connected to the Lord. We need only look around us, listen for His voice, and share His goodness and love, and the Good News of salvation.
St. John the Evangelist, the Beloved Disciple, pray for us.