2nd Sunday after Nativity: John 1:1-18

1:01 In the beginning was the Word:
the Word was with God
and the Word was God.
1:02 He was with God in the beginning.
1:03 Through him all things came into being,
not one thing came into being except through him.
1:04 What has come into being in him was life, life that was the light of men;
1:05 and light shines in darkness, and darkness could not overpower it.
1:06 A man came, sent by God. His name was John.
1:07 He came as a witness, to bear witness to the light,
so that everyone might believe through him.
1:08 He was not the light, he was to bear witness to the light.
1:09 The Word was the real light that gives light to everyone;
he was coming into the world.
1:10 He was in the world that had come into being through him,
and the world did not recognise him.
1:11 He came to his own and his own people did not accept him.
1:12 But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God,
to those who believed in his name
1:13 who were born not from human stock or human desire or human will
but from God himself.
1:14 The Word became flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory,
the glory that he has from the Father as only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.
1:15 John witnesses to him. He proclaims: 'This is the one of whom I said:
He who comes after me has passed ahead of me because he existed before me.'
1:16 Indeed, from his fullness we have, all of us, received -- one gift replacing another,
1:17 for the Law was given through Moses,
grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ.
1:18 No one has ever seen God; it is the only Son,
who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known

This is the so-called Prologue of John’s Gospel. It is a summary of his perception of Jesus.
In the first verses it is more accurate to translate, ‘The Word was onto God’ and again in vs.2, ‘This was in the beginning onto God.’ The Greek preposition doesn’t express a situation of rest, but an act of dynamism.  The Word is acting, moving to God. That is strange, because the Word comes from God; nevertheless, it is moving in the direction of God. Is that John’s way to make clear that the very close connection between Jesus and the Father is an unimaginable mystery? In the last verses of this Prologue he repeats the same way of expressing (vs.18), ‘the only begotten God, being into the bosom of the Father ...’ There is a paradox in the words ‘being’ on the one hand and ‘into the bosom’ on the other. Unimaginable mystery?

Law and Grace
‘The Law was given through Moses. Grace and truth have come to pass through Jesus Christ’ (vs.17). That is John’s conviction: Jesus was God’s grace himself, in person, ‘made flesh’(vs.14).  In chapter 2:1-12 John will elaborate this idea. There he will tell that there was a wedding without wine. The wedding is an image for God’s Covenant with his people. There was only water. The water is symbol of Moses’ Law. Jesus changes that water into wine, the wine of the grace!

Picture Meditation

We are still in Christmas time. It gives me the opportunity to show a picture by artist Peter Clare for which there was no occasion last year: Jesus’ return from Egypt to Nazareth.

In the centre of the picture the artist places a square in the shape of a diamond. The dynamics of the picture shows us the life in Egypt outside the diamond; and the daily life back in Nazareth inside the diamond.

In the bottom corner left we see the life of the Holy Family in Egypt (pyramid at the background). Father is clothed in pink, mother in green, the little Jesus, tickling a dog, in red. In the bottom corner right Jesus is praying, and he learns to be a shepherd in the Land of Moses!

In the top corner right the angel points at King Herod who just died. The danger is over. The Holy Family can go back home. In the top corner left we see the long and winding road which the Holy Family had to go to reach their homeland at last: Mary always in green; the little Jesus in red; Joseph in pink; he carries his luggage in a wheel barrow. He is welcomed by a man in blue with open arms. There is a market. The synagogue - with the Star of David - is in the centre of the village.

It is a pleasure to look at the individual scenes and to try to find Jesus in it: how he leaves the house to join the kids of his village; how he is playing with them; how a mother of them is serving a drink...

So many things to ponder on. Did I ever experience that I came home after a certain time of absence? Did I ever encounter people who welcomed me with open arms?

I am looking at this daily life: is it so special and ‘holy’ because it is Jesus’ daily life? Or does the artist make clear to me that my daily life has the same value, the same meaning? I take the time to look at my daily life and at the simplest objects and events: and to find out how the Lord is present in it and how bears witness of his presence.

Lastly, looking through the exterior of Jesus’ daily life, the evangelist John saw the presence of the heavenly mystery (Gospel reading today). Do I know people whose life is speaking of that mystery? And how about my own life? Is such a mystery to be found in my life as well?

by Fr Dries van den Akker SJ