Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we gather together as a Church, we honour the memory of one of the great servants of God, His beloved Apostle, one of the Twelve, namely that of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, the one who lived the longest among the Apostles and according to tradition was both the youngest among them during the Lord’s ministry as well as the only one who did not die in martyrdom, but still suffered greatly nonetheless for his faith and good works in God. St. John the Apostle and Evangelist lived to a long old life, even as he endured arrest, prison and exile in the island of Patmos, where he received the vision from God regarding the end times, as written in the Book of Revelations of St. John.
This Apostle was the younger brother of St. James the Greater, another one of the Twelve Apostles. Both of them were often referred to as the sons of Zebedee, and were fishermen at the lake of Galilee together with St. Peter and St. Andrew. All the four of them were among the first that the Lord had called to become His disciples, and St. John together with his brother, St. James and also St. Peter were often present in many of the important events throughout the ministry of the Lord Jesus such as the Transfiguration, the resurrection of the sick daughter of the synagogue official Jairus, as well as the moments of the Passion of the Lord like the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. All the three of them including St. John were present at those important events, and hence he truly must have had a great knowledge of what had happened during the Lord’s work and ministry.
In the Gospel passage we heard today, we heard of the story from the Gospel written by St. John himself of the moment when the Lord was risen from the dead. At that occasion, it was told that when St. Mary Magdalene came bearing the information that the Lord has risen and disappeared from the tomb, St. John was among the first of the Apostles, together with St. Peter, who went to check the truth of what they have just heard. St. John believed in what he had seen and heard, and had faith in God, which had kept him going throughout all those years afterwards when he had to endure a lot of trials and hardships as a missionary and a worker of the Lord, carrying out His will in faraway places and lands, and facing both successes and challenges throughout all those occasions and years.
In our first reading today, the Epistle that St. John himself had written, to all the faithful people of God, we heard St. John yet again testifying about the Lord, highlighting how the Love of God has manifested in the Lord Jesus Christ, the One Whose every works and good deeds, wonders and miracles, wisdom and teachings he had witnessed and heard. St. John hence shared of what he had experienced and believed in, and placed particular emphasis on the Incarnation of the Word, the Divine Word of God, the Son, in the flesh, to come down into our midst as the Saviour of all. Like that of another of very popular quote from his Gospel, St. John wrote of the exchanges between the Lord Jesus and the Pharisee, Nicodemus in which Jesus said that, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave us all His only beloved Son, so that all those who believed in Him may not perish but have eternal life.’
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we heard from these Scripture passages today, as written and recorded by St. John himself, we are reminded that each and every one of us are also witnesses and bearers of this same truth which St. John had himself received from the Lord, and just like St. John who had to labour and faced a lot of trials over the many years that he had spent in his ministry and calling as an Apostle and also an Evangelist, all of us as God’s holy people, the members of His same Church and part of that same one flock should therefore also carry out the respective missions, vocations and callings that each one of us have received as disciples and followers of the Lord. We cannot be ignorant of the responsibilities that each one of us as Christians have in being good bearers of the truth of God and as the beacons of His light and hope.
Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we rejoice together and celebrate the memory of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, remembering all the great deeds he had done for the sake of the Lord and His people, all of us are reminded that the works that the Lord had begun and entrusted to His Church through His Apostles like St. John are far from being completed. On the contrary, there are always many more opportunities and occasions where there may be a lot of chance for us to be the bearers of God’s truth and love in our communities today, or within our own families and circles of friends, with acquaintances and even strangers we encounter daily in life. And this Christmas season is one of those occasions in which we can reach out to our fellow brethren with pure and genuine Christian love.
That is why it is important that each one of us understand the true meaning and importance of Christmas, knowing that Christmas is truly the manifestation of God’s Love, just as St. John had stated in various occasions, of the Divine Word and Son of God incarnate, taking up upon Himself our humble human nature and existence, so that by this action, He might accomplish everything that had been planned and prophesied for us, our salvation and liberation from the bondage of sin, evil and death. The question is whether we understand and appreciate this truth, and even more importantly, whether we show it in our way of celebrating Christmas, by putting Christ at the centre of all of our rejoicing, celebrations and festivities, or whether we have allowed the excesses of the secular form of Christmas, all the worldly merrymaking and parties to distract us from the true meaning of Christmas.
That is why we should reflect well on this, and if we have not done so, we should change our emphasis and focus in the way we celebrate Christmas. Christmas should no longer be about ourselves or be about our pleasures and happiness, while forgetting about others and those who are suffering around us. Instead of a selfish celebration and excessive merrymaking and feasting, we should be ever more committed as the followers and disciples of the Lord, in showing one another what true Christian love is all about, sharing the same love that Christ our Lord had come bearing with Him into this world, by reaching out to the less fortunate and all those who are not able to celebrate Christmas the way we do. Let us also seek reconciliation and forgiveness from one another for all the past faults we have made as well.
May the Lord through the examples and life of His faithful servant and Apostle, St. John, continue to strengthen and inspire us to be ever more dedicated and faithful in all things. May He help us to appreciate and understand better what He had Himself done for us so that we too may become good witnesses and bearers of His love, His truth and His ways. May God bless our every efforts and endeavours, our every actions and good works at all times, now and forevermore. Amen.