When I realized that today is the feast day of St. John the Evangelist, and that I am privileged to share my thoughts about St. John, I didn’t know where to start! The Holy Spirit has guided me in my journey into the fullness of our Faith using the incredible gift we have in St. John’s contemplative narration of Jesus’ life as well as his letters to the Early Church. St. John’s gospel is quite different than the other three; it is more like a conversation between friends. Yes, we observe Jesus’ compassion and passion as Jesus spoke his salvation into others, but St. John draws us to see Jesus right here, right now in our daily round. Salvation is a noun, yet as we live our life, it is a verb that unfolds through the extremes and the mundane of our life. I need that reminder so that I will allow myself to be saved from myself through living my ordinary life. Learning to live intimately inclined to Jesus as the Lover of my Soul has been a hard-fought battle. It wasn’t until I reclined in conversation with the Jesus of St. John’s gospel that I saw him beholding me!
The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.”
Seeing or beholding is a prevalent theme St. John uses throughout his gospel narrative. He begins his gospel with the words, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…What has come into being in him was life, and that life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it…And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory.” St. John proceeds to narrate the fullness of this truth by pleading with us to “come and see”; to behold our Savior through contemplation.
Take a moment to place the palm of your hand close to your face. What do you see? What can’t you see? In essence, what St. John is asking us to do is to pull away OUR palm (our SELF) and see what lies before us. Do you have trouble with your vision? Is it hard for you to see the life our Savior desires for you? I’ve struggled most of my life to look for God with my palm in front of my face. Through tremendous healing, I learned to remove my palm from my vision. Beholding the LORD through John’s eyes was transforming. What I saw in that light was that I am the beloved daughter of the Most-High God. I kindle to that word, “beloved.”
Today’s mass readings include a passage from one of St. John’s letters to the Early Church that begins with the greeting, “Beloved,” and concludes with, “We are writing this so that our joy may be complete.” Isn’t that what we long to know? That we are beloved and that our joy can be complete. Seem’s impossible sometimes, does it not? How do you feel about yourself and your life right now, right this minute? Is there a permeating understanding that you are God’s beloved and that joy is complete because of it? Or are you still waiting for some next thing to make you feel Beloved and joyful?
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.
I John 1:1-4
Eugene Peterson wrote that the two most difficult things to get straight in life are love and God. Do you agree with that? I’ve come to believe it to be true in my own life. I know how messy my understanding of God has been and how that affected how I received his love and gave love to others. Is it just me, or do you struggle to detach “love” from approval and performance from abuse or neglect? For much of my life, I saw God as Judge, period. It wasn’t until these later years of my life that I’ve allowed myself to consider God as Lover, it has and continues to save me!
A turning point for me was a moment I shared with our eldest grandchild when she was eight months old. I was taken up in the wonder of Margot, the dimples on her tiny hands that would one day emerge as knuckles, her blue eyes that were so much like our sons, every detail of her existence swept me up in a love that only a grandparent can know for a grandchild. I adored her as I had never adored anyone else! We sat alone one day on the floor as she watched a Baby Einstein video. Observing her delight in the show caused me to delight. She would turn to me and look at me and smile and giggle, then point back to the television as if to invite me to watch the show with her. Into those moments, I dropped that proverbial palm from my face, and the LORD spoke very clearly to me, “Lois, I know that you could gaze at Margot for a long, long time, you would move heaven and earth for Marguerite to remain safe and secure in your presence and your love for her. Lois, I adore you more than you can adore Margot. I enjoy you; you are a pleasure to love; you are MY beloved daughter! Will you adore me as I adore you?” Tears poured from a wound that had never healed, a wound caused by conditional love and harsh judgment, a wound that infected my understanding of God, my Father. What followed was a journey guided by St. John’s gospel and letters.
“God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love. We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First, we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.“
I John 4:17-19 (The Message)
I’ve learned that God desires to dwell with ME! Where once I felt I had to get things just right, say the right things, look the right way, perform in a certain way, I now see him sitting on the floor beside me. He doesn’t reject me; he adores me! There is nothing that would ever change his mind about me.
Friend, do you have a wound that festers in your life? A wound that blinds you to the truth of God’s love for you and infects how you love others. God adores you!
What are the messes you have made because of your fear that God will not come through for you or that you have to earn his love? God still adores you!
Does your fear, your pride, or your anger cripple you? Stand in line. Our first parents acted on their fear but God still loved them. God did, God does, and God will always adore you!
Lover of our Soul, teach us to see you; to behold you; to adore you!
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, it is now and ever shall be, world without end.