Friday, December 27, 2013

St. John the Mystic

Happy St. John the Evangelist Day!

I've noted before on this blog that I think St. John is a lover.  I'm not talking about a Cassanova (although, who knows?  Maybe he was!)  But what I mean by that is how his Gospel is always emphasizing Jesus as the embodiment of Love.  He is not only the "Word made flesh," but he is Love made manifest in human form.  As I've said, you can go back to past December 27th writings on this blog and read my words about John and Love.  This time around, I am thinking more about John's mystical qualities.  

Unlike the other evangelists, John writes in a way that is far more contemplative than the accounts we get from Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  Yes, all of them, including John, have an agenda that they're advancing in an effort of showing Jesus to be the Messiah.   Mark, the first one to have put together a Gospel, is rushing to get this account down before more people are killed.  His Jesus has no time to suffer fools.  Matthew, the flawed tax collector, is always drawing the parallels for his Jewish audience between those things they've learned from Torah, and what they should see in Jesus.  Luke, the orderly Greek physician, depicts the Jesus who will lift up the lowly and show how inclusive the Love is for all people: women, Samaritans, prodigal sons, etc.  John's Jesus is the deeply spiritual contemplative.  His account of the life of Christ reveals that Jesus has achieved a Oneness with God that is beyond anything anyone had ever experienced on earth because, for John, Jesus is "The Word made flesh."  This summer, as I read a modern mystic, Andrew Harvey's book, "Son of Man," I was awakened to how John's writing on Jesus reveals him to be a deeply centered, spiritual man in all his conversations with the various people he encounters from Nicodemus to the Samaritan Woman at the well to his final moments with the disciples.  I definitely see it in this portion of the Gospel passage that is chosen for St. John's Feast Day:

 ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’

If you have a hankering to do this, I'd recommend reading those chapters in John where Jesus is giving his final testament to his friends, the disciples (start at Chapter 14 and read to the end of Chapter 17.)  Let the poetry of the language sink in and recognize how completely at one with all things Jesus has become, knowing that he is being betrayed and will be handed over to the Roman authorities.  I think these chapters are the revelation of his Lordship which, even in these moments, the disciples still can only see dimly.  Even today, those of us who follow Christ don't always understand or see the Divine in all that is in and around us.  The things that tear down God's creation can knock us off our centering on the good.  John encourages us to always strive toward the goal of being at One with Divinity:
 For this is the message you have heard from the beginning, that we should 
love one another. We must not be like Cain who was from the evil one 
and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own 
deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not be astonished, brothers 
and sisters, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed from 
death to life because we love one another. Whoever does not love abides 
in death. All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know 
that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them. We know love 
by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our 
lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has 
the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?
 Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.
On this third day of Christmas, let us go forth into the world to Love and serve the One who is Love.

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