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Friday, 8 January 2016

The Feast Of Saint John The Evangelist


The Feast Of Saint John The Evangelist
Transcript taken from oral presentation of a sermon by Fr Matthew Kirby - 27th December 2015.
 
Who Is St John The Evangelist?
Today's feast (27-12-15) is "The Feast Of Saint John The Evangelist" who gave us the Gospel named after him, also three epistles 1,2 and 3 - John's 3 letters. We had a reading from the first of those this morning. Scholars debate about whether he is also responsible for The Book Of Revelation. There is no doubt that he is one of the most important authors in the New Testament, and he was one of the twelve apostles that Jesus chose.
 
How is He Different to the other Apostles?
Today is his feast and we have a "white" altar cloth to celebrate. This is actually unusual because every other apostle who has a feast, every one of the twelve apostles and St Paul (another of the apostles), their feast day is "red" because they were martyred, and red is the colour of blood. St John the Evangelist is the only one who gets white, which is the normal colour for Saints. The altar cloth used is white because he was not martyred he was the only apostle from the twelve apostles, of St Paul and the other apostolic men, that was not killed either by the Jewish State or by the Roman State. At the end of his life he was the only one to die an old man, all the rest were killed because of their testimony.
 
The Apostle Of Divine Love?
Saint John was the one who lasted the longest, there are some traditions that say he lived until he was ninety years old. He was an old man. There is a lovely tradition, although I don't know its historical accuracy but it does sound like St John, that at the very end of his life when he could no longer walk on his own two feet and people used to carry him into church he would just continue repeating to them (and there wasn't much more for him to say other than this) "love one another, Love one another". That is St John and he is the apostle of Divine Love because that is mentioned so many times in his Gospel and his epistles. It is from St John's Gospel that we have that most famous of all verses in the Bible (John 3:16) "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, to the end that all who believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." The same one which we repeat every time we have Mass.
 
How Does He Refer To Himself?
So, St John the Evangelist was "The Apostle Of Love" and it is interesting that he does not name himself directly in his Gospel. He doesn't refer to himself by name, but he does refer to himself, so how does he refer to himself? He constantly calls himself (almost like a code) "The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved" and again at the very last chapter he is referred to as "The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved" which is a bit strange because John himself tells us that Jesus loved all the apostles.
 
Okay? What did he say?
Although he says that he is "The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved" in chapter 13 verse 1 (this is just one of many places that we can prove this from) In his own Gospel (chapter 13 verse 1) he talks of Jesus "having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end". and there Jesus is with His apostles about to celebrate the Last Supper. So John knew very well that all of the disciples were the disciples whom Jesus loved, but that is the name he gives himself directly in his Gospel. However, I think John had an interesting sense of humour as there is also a sense in which he names himself indirectly in his Gospel. At the end of each Mass, we have what they call the Last Gospel and normally that last Gospel is the very beginning of Johns Gospel "prologue" as it is sometimes called. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Interestingly enough in the midst of all this high theology of who Jesus is (both God and man, the Word made flesh) he starts talking about John the Baptist. He says " There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came for testimony to bare witness of that light, that all might believe through him, he was not the light, but came to bare witness to the light" and then it goes back to talking about Jesus. But there is this little interlude where he talks about "a man sent from God whose name was John, who was not the light but bare witness to the light," now he is talking about John the Baptist it is very obvious in context and later in the chapter that he is talking about John the Baptist.
 
But is there a double meaning there?
I think so, because at the very end of his Gospel in the last two chapters he says these things, "These are written (in other words, the things he was writing - right now) that you may believe Jesus is the Christ, the son of God and that believing you may have life in his name" and then at the very last few verses that we heard from today in the Gospel "This is the disciple who was baring witness (there is that word again "baring witness") to these things, and who has written these things that we know, and we know that his testimony is true". So compare that with what he said about John at the beginning (so we go from the end back to the beginning). "There was a man sent from God whose name was John, he came for a testimony to bare witness (that same word used at the end) to the light, that all might believe through him" and what does he say about these writings? that "they were written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ". and so I think John was smiling when he wrote this because he knew he was talking about John the Baptist but there is that double meaning there. At the very end of the Gospel he tells you that he too is a John and was baring witness to these things.
 
Why Does He Call Himself That?
But having said all that, why does he call himself "The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved" ? when he acknowledges that Jesus loved all of his disciples. Is it because he had a special friendship with Jesus? It's possible, but I think there's something else going on here because much of what John does in his Gospel has a deeper meaning.
 
Alright. So what is he saying?
Well, he is saying this is his name, he gives this as his identity. His name instead of a name. Why? Well I think it is to show us that being loved by God, being loved by Jesus, is enough.

It is enough for our identity.
It is enough for our peace, and security about who we are and what we can become.
It is enough to show us our worth to God.
It is enough to show us the way to live, as we are inspired by, as we imitate and as we reflect that love shown to us by Jesus.
It is enough...
 
We too can call ourselves "The Disciple Whom Jesus Loves" There is a sense in which that is every Christians name, it is their fundamental identity. We are loved personally and individually by God himself, in and through His Son and as we respond to His call each of us is revealed as "The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved" .
 
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
 
Join us Next Sunday for Anglican Catholic Worship At St Hilda's Parish.
In the chapel at St Marys Campus of the All Saints College.
Victoria St Maitland NSW Australia.

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