Monday, December 26, 2016


Homily for Dec. 27th, 2016: 1 John 1:1-4; John 20:1a, 2-8.

          “The other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first.” Why? There are two possible answers to that question. Both are probably true. First, “the other disciple,” as he is called, was probably younger than Peter. That is what most Bible scholars believe. This is the man we celebrate today: St. John, author of our fourth gospel, written, Scripture scholars believe, between 90 and 100 A.D., well after Peter had been crucified in Rome.

In the gospel which bears his name he is identified throughout as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Known therefore as “the Beloved Disciple,” he alone of all the twelve apostles returned to stand beside the Lord’s cross, along with Jesus’ mother Mary and the other faithful women disciples, after the men “all deserted him and fled” at Jesus’ arrest the night before in the garden of Gethsemane (Mk. 14:50).

And it is this special love which gives us the second reason for John’s earlier arrival at the tomb. His love for the Lord was more intense than Peter’s. Once he heard that the tomb was empty, the Beloved Disciple had to get there, to see with his own eyes what had been reported. And it was precisely this special bond of love between him and the Lord which explains the closing verse of our gospel today: “Then the other disciple also went in … And he saw and believed.” John is the only one of the Lord’s apostles who came to belief in the resurrection on the basis of the empty tomb alone. The others assumed that the Lord’s body had been stolen. They came to belief only when they saw risen Lord – and then only after overcoming their initial skepticism.

The late American biblical scholar Fr. Raymond Brown, who died in 1998 at age 70, writes that John “was the disciple who was bound closest to Jesus in love [and hence] the quickest to look for him and the first to believe in him.” The Beloved Disciple was also the first to recognize the risen Lord standing on the shore after a night of fruitless fishing on the lake, and to tell Peter, “It is the Lord” (Jn. 21:7).

“Faith is possible for the Beloved Disciple,” Fr. Brown writes, “because he has become very sensitive to Jesus through love. … Love for Jesus gives one insight into his presence.” On this feast of the Beloved Disciple what better gift could we ask of the Lord than an abundant measure of the love that he has for us?