HOMILY FOR DECEMBER 27, FEAST OF ST. JOHN, APOSTLE AND EVANGELIST. (1)










HOMILY FOR DECEMBER 27, FEAST OF ST. JOHN, APOSTLE AND EVANGELIST.

THEME: THE CROSS IS PART OF CHRISTMAS.

BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches

 

Jn 20:1, 2-8

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So, she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” So, Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed.

Today is the Feast of St. John, the Apostle and the author of the fourth Gospel, two epistles and the book of Revelation. The Gospel today is about the Resurrection of Jesus. Definitely, we can say this is rather unusual, and we may even say, it is out of place. It should not be part of the Christmas season. On the contrary, however, instead of being out of place, the Gospel reading today helps us to understand Christmas in its proper context.

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A teacher in a Catholic school was helping her pupils in putting Christmas decorations in the classroom. One pupil noticed the crucifix above the blackboard. He told his teacher about it: “We have to remove that cross. It spoils the Christmas spirit.” But the teacher answered: “No. We should not remove the cross. The Baby Jesus in the manger will grow up to become a man. Then he will die on the cross for all of us. The cross is part of Christmas.”

The birth of Jesus is not an isolated event. His birth would mean nothing if he did not die on the cross, and his death on the cross would also mean nothing if he did not rise again from the dead. In other words, therefore, Christmas is part of the whole mystery of our redemption which reaches its climax in the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross and culminates in His resurrection.

This is the reason why the feast of the death of the first Christian martyr, St. Stephen is celebrated on December 26. And tomorrow, December 28, we will celebrate the feast of the youngest martyrs, the Holy Innocents, the babies killed by King Herod. On the Feast of the Epiphany, we will recall the visit of the three Wise Men who brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. It is surprising that they brought myrrh as one of the gifts because it cannot be a gift for a baby. Myrrh is used to clean and embalm a dead body. But this is a way of reminding us that the Baby Jesus was born to die. Christmas is indeed linked with the Passion and Death of Jesus.

In the same way, this reminds us also of our own life. We are born into this world. But our life is this world is not forever. We are all bound to die. Birth is essentially linked with death. The moment we were born, we begin to die. Yet death is not the end of life. Rather death is part of life. After death, life goes on. That is the reason why we reflect on the message of the Gospel today. There is resurrection. There is everlasting life. How did this become possible? It all became possible because of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was born on Christmas day and became a man like us in all things except sin, who died on the cross for our sakes, and who rose again on the third day.

This lesson, therefore, puts Christmas in its proper context. This also helps us understand our own life in its proper context. Every birth reminds us of death. And every death reminds us of life. When we celebrate our birthday, we come closer to death. Yet as we come closer to death, we also come closer to resurrection and eternal life, and finally, union with God in His eternal Kingdom.

Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches

 

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