Daily Reflection
December 27th, 1999
Gerry Stockhausen, S.J.
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Saint John, apostle and evangelist - Feast 
1 John 1:1-4
Psalms 97:1-2, 5-6, 11-12
John 20:2-8

What we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life…(1 John 1)
The other disciple…saw the linen cloths lying there.
Then Simon Peter…saw the linen cloths lying, and the napkin, which had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself.  (John 20)

Of all the readings that could be used for the feast of St. John, this is certainly a strange one!  There are so many significant events in the gospels at which Peter, James, and John are present.  Why not use one of them?  Instead we get this story about running to the tomb and the repetition of something about linen cloths!

While we celebrate the feast of St. John, and identify him with the “beloved disciple,” we need to identify ourselves with the beloved disciple as well.  John the Evangelist wants us to contemplate the life of Jesus by imagining ourselves as the beloved disciple.  As the disciple runs to the tomb, we are invited to be that eager for news of the Lord.  The disciple comes to faith in the resurrection of Jesus through the evidence of what he can see with his eyes, look upon and touch with his hands, namely the linen cloths.  In the same way we are invited to come to faith in the presence of the risen Lord through the evidence of the concrete actions and events of our lives.

We have just finished unwrapping Christmas presents, recalling the gift of the Christ child wrapped in swaddling clothes, and now our attention is drawn to the linen cloths that wrapped his crucified body.  The beloved disciple believes, not because he sees the whole Jesus risen in glory, but because he sees the traces of God’s presence, the linen cloths that recall the incredible outpouring of God’s love in the life and death of Jesus.  So it is with us.  In this life we never even glimpse the fullness of God’s presence, just the traces.  It is our faith that sees God present behind the traces.  

In this Christmas season we have seen many acts of charity and generosity and sharing of gifts with those in need.  We have shared time with friends and loved ones.  And we know of the hard work of justice and reconciliation and peace-making that goes on around us and in us all year long—what we have heard, and seen, and looked upon, and touched, concerning the word of life—this is what we proclaim about God’s presence, with our life as well as our words.

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