Saturday, December 27, 2014

In the Wonder of the Incarnation--A belated Christmas Message.

    It is now 2 days after Christmas and it is the feast of my patron saint--John the Evangelist. His Gospel is my favorite of the four because of its profound theology.  John does not give us a memorable infancy narrative as do Matthew and Luke.  Instead he gives us a "prologue", a beautiful and profound statement of who Jesus is.

  I wish here just to highlight 3 important features of this prologue.  I also encourage you to read and reflect on that prologue (John 1:1-18)

   1. Verses 1-3 state that"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be." These three verses are packed with meaning.  First of all they tell us that the Word, as second person of the Trinity, is God and existed before time.  They likewise tell us that all was created through the Word.   This helps us to realize that while Jesus of Nazareth came to us in time He existed and was involved in the universe and in the life of our world even before He came in the flesh.  Francis of Assisi intuited this with his sense that the whole cosmos reflected Christ, something that St. Bonaventure later reflected on.

   2. The key verse in this prologue is verse 14, "The Word became flesh".  This was a shocking message at the time that the Gospel was written.  John was trying throughout his Gospel to combat a heresy that said that Jesus only appeared to be human.  To tell the truth many still find this to be shocking as we tend to spiritualize Jesus and minimize his humanity.  As one theology professor of mine used to point out, "You can't encounter the divinity of Jesus without deeply contemplating His humanity.  John carries this theme throughout His Gospel showing a Jesus who heals by using saliva, who weeps at the tomb of Lazarus and who washes the feet of His disciples.

   3.  The mystery of the Incarnation, begun in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, continues even after He dies and rises from the dead.  John subtlety states this in verse 16 where he says, "From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace"  Fr. Ronald Rolheiser, OMI, in his book, The Holy Longing, reminds us that the Incarnation  was not a 33 year experiment.  It rather continues in different ways--In the Church as the Body of Christ, in the Eucharist, in the encounter with Christ in the poor and needy (Oh how we conveniently avoid that one.)  Adding to that Jesus tells us that where 2 or 3 are gathered in his name He is there with us.  The "grace in place of grace phrase in this verse tells us that what began with the historical Incarnation in Jesus of Nazareth continues down through the ages in us.  Finally, in a deeper sense, we can see in this entire prologue what modern theologians are calling "deep Incarnation".  What this means is that because all is created in and through Christ that the entire evolving universe in some way reveals Him to us.

     An explanatory note:  When John calls Jesus the Word he is talking about the principle that from the beginning God is always communicating, or revealing God self.

   I love the nativity story in Luke that was read at midnight Mass.  I love to behold a beautiful nativity scene, but I love to do so while reading John's prologue.  A belated and Blessed Christmas to you and a Happy New Year.

1 comment:

  1. What a lovely reflection. It helped me better understand that particular part of the Gospel. Thanks for sharing it!