Homily for the Feast of St John, Apostle and Evangelist
The Tomb, Church of Holy Sepulchre
By: Deacon Bill Frere
Homily for Monday December 27 2021
Gospel – John 20: 1a, 2-8
It’s about a 20 minute walk from the Cenacle, the Upper Room (site of the Last Supper) to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (site of Jesus’s tomb), from one side of the Old City to the other. And, no, I never thought about racing from the one location to the other like John and Peter do in today’s Gospel. Many times in class I have used today’s reading as a trivia question. In a foot race between John and Peter, who would win? John, of course! John and Pete race to the Tomb but John gets there first.
But what is striking is that John does not immediately enter the Tomb. Instead he waits for Peter and Peter goes in first. I have always taken this moment as a sign of John’s faith. The Apostle whom Jesus loved, the only one who stood by the cross while all the others went into hiding! The Apostle that Jesus entrusted the care of His mother Mary! Now granted, there was probably an element of respect for Peter and his position among the Apostles for John to wait for Peter to enter the Tomb first. And yes, John does take a quick peek into the Tomb. But there is a part of me that thinks – no! John don’t need to enter the Tomb first! He knows what he will find! An empty Tomb! He knows that the Lord is risen, just as He said! He believes!
That faith is singularly reflected in today’s first reading, also from John:
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.
And perhaps that is our focus today, 2 days after Christmas. The Word of Life! Have we seen it? Do we testify to it in our daily life? Do we proclaim it to others? Do we live in fellowship with others and with the Father and Son? Is our joy complete?
Side Note – today’s photo depicts the altar over Jesus’ Tomb. For those of you who are not Latin scholars, the inscription on the left reads – behold the place where they laid Him!
Deacon Bill Frere