Feast of Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist

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Saint John – Apostle and Evangelist

Readings: 1 Jn 1:1-4; Jn 20: 1a, 2-8.

Reading 1 (1 Jn 1:1-4): Beloved:
What was from the beginning,
what we have heard,
what we have seen with our eyes,
what we looked upon
and touched with our hands
concerns the Word of life?
for the life was made visible;
we have seen it and testify to it
and proclaim to you the eternal life
that was with the Father and was made visible to us?
what we have seen and heard
we proclaim now to you,
so that you too may have fellowship with us;
for our fellowship is with the Father
and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
We are writing this so that our joy may be complete.

Gospel (Jn 20:1a, 2-8): On the first day of the week,
Mary Magdalene ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we do not know where they put him.”
So, Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.

I. THEME: St. John the apostle witnessed for Christ.


            Human acts are for a purpose. St. John the evangelist clearly declared his purpose in writing the Fourth Gospel which is in order for people to believe in Christ; and because of their faith in Christ, they shall inherit the eternal life (Jn 20:31). This purpose is also the purpose why he witnessed for Christ in the first reading, that is: to have fellowship with people, and people have fellowship with God. In the Gospel, when he saw the empty tomb, the beloved disciple confessed: “he saw and believed.”


1/ Reading I: That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you.

1.1/ Christ exists “from the beginning:” If we compare the first verse of the Fourth Gospel with the first verse of the first Letter of John, we shall understand his intention when he mentioned “in the beginning.” He wanted to begin, not at the moment of Jesus’ presence in this world, but at his original presence.

1.2/ John witnessed for Christ as follows: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life.” John the evangelist used verbs: to hear, to see, to look upon and to touch at the present perfect to witness for Christ. In order for a witness to be effective, a preacher needs to have all of these experiences.

            (1) Which we have heard: The faithful want to hear, not human wisdom nor a preacher’s personal opinion, but God’s word. Like prophets, a preacher must first listen to God, then communicate God’s word to his congregation.

            (2) Which we have seen with our eyes: There is a faithful, after has heard the sermon, said to the priest: “You preached to us today as you have seen God.” Of course, a preacher can’t see Christ in the flesh as St. John; but he can see him with the eyes of faith.

            (3) Which we have looked upon: What is the difference between the two verbs, to see and to look upon? The verb to see in Greek (horan) indicates a physical seeing; for example, to see an object. But the verb to contemplate in Greek (theasthai) requires a longer time to recognize the essence of an object. When talked about God’s glory, John also used this verb: “we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” (Jn 1:14).

            (4) Which we have touched: Many think the reason why John wrote these words was to oppose the heresy of Docetism, those who believed Christ didn’t have a real human body. In order to have an effective preaching, a preacher needs to have a real experience in order to understand things he shall preach, and to sympathize with his audiences’ problems.

1.3/ The purpose of witnessing: St. John gave us two reasons for his witness: “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing this that our joy may be complete.”

            (1) To have fellowship with God and with one another: When St. John preached the Good News, either by preaching or by writing, he always had a purpose to have fellowship with his audience and to lead them to God.

            (2) In order our joy may be complete: Joy is the core of the Good News. If a preacher only brings bad news and causes despair in his audience; that aren’t Christ’s Good News. Of course, he must preach the truth to wake up his audience’s conscience and to push them to repentance; but once they confessed their sins, they must feel the joy of being forgiveness and their reconciliation to God.

2/ Gospel: He saw and believed.

            Today passage began the good news of the Resurrection according to John: “Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.  So, she ran, and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”  Peter then came out with the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb.  They both ran, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first; and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in.” There are two important questions related to this passage:

2.1/ Who is the beloved disciple? There are six times the author used the expression “the beloved disciple” (Jn 13:23-26, 19:25-27, 20:2-10, 21:7, 21:2-23, 21:24). Who is this beloved disciple? There are two main opinions:

            (1) He is John the apostle: Since the author didn’t want to name himself or due to his humility, he used this expression to imply himself. John was one of the three disciples most closed to Christ, the other two were Peter and James, his brother. This is a hypothesis which has more weight.

            (2) It can be any disciple who is loved by Jesus: Some say this is an image of a perfect Christian who had a closed relationship with Jesus in the Last Supper and his death and was the first to recognize Jesus after his death.

2.2/ Why did the beloved disciple let Peter to enter the tomb first? There are also two ways of explanation:

            (1) Because Peter was the leader of the apostles: The action of the beloved disciple, though he came to the tomb first but didn’t enter because he respected Peter’s authority. This hypothesis doesn’t have a good cause because there was no passage which talked about the authority in John’s Gospel. Moreover, many times Peter didn’t recognize Jesus immediately, and the beloved disciples must first tell him.

            (2) Because the summit of this passage is the beloved disciple believed Christ resurrected: “Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed.” There are some who think this is the author’s style of writing, he wants to end his passage by the beloved disciple’s confession, so he let Peter to come first. Moreover, the author also wanted to send some advice to his audience: those who love Christ more shall run faster and easily to recognize him than those who love him lesser (Jn 21:7).


III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:                     

            – We have a duty to witness for Christ by preaching the Good News and a life of witness.

            – The purpose of witness is to have fellowship with others and to lead them to Christ in faith.

            – In order for our preaching to be effective, we need to have a strong and firm faith in Christ through listening, seeing, contemplating and experiencing him in our life.

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