December 27, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Saint John the Evangelist
Reading (1 John 1:1-4) Gospel (St. John 20:1a, 2-8)
Saint John, in the first reading, tells us, “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked upon, what we have touched with our hands, concerns the Word of life.” And he tells us that this life was made visible. Yet at the same time, in the Gospel reading, we hear about the life which was made visible and has now become invisible once again, that is, that Jesus in His Resurrection from the dead, when the disciples went to the tomb, Saint John looked into the tomb and He was not there. He saw the burial cloths. He saw and he believed. And so, first it was in seeing this Word which was made visible to us, which is invisible from all eternity because He is God, and now became visible in our human nature, who has, once again, become invisible to us; but He is still with us completely.
Saint John tells us that in seeing this life, touching this life, and hearing this life, suddenly he believed. And he tells us these things so that we could believe and our joy may be complete. Then he turns around and tells us that it was in seeing the burial cloths, no longer being able to see the Word made visible, but now this Word made visible had once again become invisible. But he saw the burial cloths and he believed. So first it was in seeing this word and then it was in not seeing Him once again that Saint John came to the fullness of faith, that he understood what Our Lord told him when He said, “I tell you this that My own joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.”
Saint John is also recognizing in this, then, that his joy is not complete if he just keeps this to himself. It is the Good News of Jesus Christ and it is not something which is just for us individually; but rather, it is for us that when we come to understand this mystery of Christ that we will need to talk to others about it because when we recognize the gift that is given to us, we will not be able to remain silent. As we have to change our lives to reflect who this person of Jesus Christ is within each one of us – acting in us and living in us – once again this Word who is invisible in us takes on a visible form. That is, people will hear Him speak through us, they will see Him act through us, they will be able to recognize that we have changed, that we are no longer the person that we used to be. There is something substantially different about us, and that is that Jesus Christ is living in us and through us, that He is speaking in us and through us. What the people see and hear is maybe coming out of our mouths and acting in our persons, but they will recognize that it is the Lord.
For us, then, we have that obligation to bring Christ to others, to be able to bring Him into the world in the way that we speak and the way that we act so that the joy we find in Christ is going to be brought to others. It is not this kind of surface sort of joy that some Christians claim to have, which is rather false – this nicey-nice Jesus and playing the cheerleader for the Lord. That is not what He is looking for. But rather what He is looking for is somebody who loves Him so deeply and so profoundly that even in the midst of whatever purifications and sufferings come that that joy remains because it is deeply rooted, it is not surface-level. It is something which is profound and it becomes one with our person – or really, we become one with Him. That is what He is looking for. Not something that we keep at an arm’s distance, yet on the surface we talk about how wonderful it is to believe in Jesus; but rather, it is when we unite ourselves with Him, when we change our lives to be with one with Him so that He can speak in us and through us and He can act in us and through us, that is when it is no longer us who live but the Lord who lives in us. And that is when people will recognize who this truly is and then we will share the joy of Christ with others. They will have the same joy and our joy will be complete. Then we will understand this same mystery that Saint John speaks of because the Word will be seen and heard in us and through us, even though He is still invisible. And, in that, the joy of Christ will fill our hearts to overflowing, and that overflowing joy and love of Christ will be brought to others. Then, with Saint John, we will truly be able to say, “We speak to you of this so that our joy may be yours, and our joy may be complete.”
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.