Archive for the ‘St. John the Evangelist’ Category

How Could They Follow Him?

January 21, 2023

3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
By Fr. Victor Feltes

When I read the four Gospels for the first time, I naturally began with Matthew’s Gospel, and I remember being offended by today’s gospel reading. Matthew tells us Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee and saw two brothers, Simon and Andrew, with their fishing nets. He said, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” And they followed him. Then the Lord saw two other brothers, James and John, mending their nets. He called them too, and they immediately left their boat and their father to follow him. This episode really bothered me. Imagine being at your home or at your workplace, and a stranger knocks on your front door or walks up to your desk and says, “Follow me.” So you quit your job and leave your family to follow this person. Who would do that? It’s crazy. How can the Lord expect anyone to do that? But John’s Gospel reveals that today’s gospel was not the first time Jesus had met these future apostles.

Simon Peter’s brother Andrew and (traditionally) John the son of Zebedee were the two disciples who heard John the Baptist point out Jesus and say, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” This declaration led them to meet Jesus and spend the day with him. After this, Andrew first found his brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah!” (that is, the Christ). Then Andrew brought Simon to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter). If John the son of Zebedee was that other unnamed disciple, then he likely told his older brother James all about meeting Jesus too. So in today’s gospel, when Jesus called the four men to follow him as “fishers of men” he was not some total stranger.

The various Gospels sometimes include or omit different details when recounting the same events. Luke’s Gospel adds further context to this scene. He records there was a crowd pressing in on Jesus that day by the Sea of Galilee. So Jesus got into Simon and Andrew’s boat, sat down, and taught the people from there a short distance from the shore. When Jesus finished speaking, he told Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Skeptical Simon reluctantly agreed, and they proceeded to catch such a great number of fish that their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come help and both boats became so filled that they were in danger of sinking. Astonishment at that catch of fish seized Simon and Andrew, and likewise James and John, who were Simon’s business partners. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”

Therefore, reading the Gospels together, we learn that Jesus was not a random stranger who just showed up one day demanding their full devotion. They were already familiar with Jesus, had heard his teaching, and witnessed his power. This enabled Simon, Andrew, James, and John to reasonably and radically follow Jesus Christ like they did.

Among all famous figures, Jesus Christ may have the highest name recognition in the world. Everyone has heard of Jesus, but how well do people know him? Surely, Jesus would like to call many to more; to a deeper relationship with himself and a closer connection to his one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. How can you help? Your non-Catholic or non-practicing family, friends, and acquaintances know you, they like you, and regard you. They rarely (if ever) see or hear me, but they frequently encounter you. Simon Peter took Jesus seriously because his brother Andrew. Andrew already knew Jesus, told stories and spoke highly of him, and encouraged Simon to meet him. You can be like Andrew for people in your life. As I preached at the other Masses last Sunday, three ways you can draw people closer to Christ and his Church are by sharing your prayers, sharing your stories, and sharing your invitations.

Share your Prayers
When you share your prayers with others it reflects that you know Jesus. Whenever someone asks for your prayers, or even when someone entrusts their burdens to you, offer to pray with them then and there. It’s easy—just talk to Jesus out loud. The words of your prayer don’t need to be eloquent, just sincere. People are typically receptive to this and very grateful for it, and your shared prayer can open the door for a miracle in their lives.

Share your Stories
When you share your faith stories with others it reveals the power of Jesus in our world. How have you encountered Jesus? What has the Lord done for you? What are your personal miracles and spirit stories? Don’t hide these highlight experiences of your spiritual life under bushel baskets, but be humble enough to share them for others’ good. When the disciples realized what Jesus Christ could do, through the miracle of the great catch of fish, they left everything to follow him.

Share your Invitations
When you share your holy invitations with others this offers them an opportunity to encounter Jesus and his Church. Invite them to join you here in the house of the Lord, for Holy Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, or parish events. Invite them to share in our Christ-centered worship and close community. Even if they decline, you will have planted a seed that may bear fruit someday.

Simon, Andrew, James, and John encountered friends of Jesus, discovered his power to do good, and had the opportunity to personally encounter him. Your faithful prayers, your powerful stories, and your holy invitations, can offer your non-practicing or non-Catholic dear ones the opportunity to follow Jesus Christ more closely. Here is your homework for this week: share a prayer, or a story, or an invitation with someone it could help. Cast your net so that Jesus Christ may be better known, and let’s see what Jesus does with it.

Running to the Empty Tomb

April 17, 2022

Easter Sunday
By Fr. Victor Feltes

There is a joke about how John ran faster than Peter on Easter. John wins the footrace to the tomb and shouts, “I won, I won!” But Peter taunts him, “Who will ever know?” And John says under his breath: “Everyone will know.

St. John’s Gospel records how when Mary Magdalene told them about the empty tomb, “Peter and [John] went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but [John] ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first.” When Peter arrives, they both enter in to experience signs and results of Jesus’ Resurrection. If St. John is not highlighting his faster foot speed in order to brag, if his purpose is not to rub it in “Slow-Poke Peter’s” face, why include the detail about arriving before Peter?

Part of this is due to St. John accurately describing his firsthand experience of the empty Easter tomb of Christ. Who did what, when and with whom, are important facts when providing eyewitness testimony. Documenting that the tomb was empty before his disciples saw him alive again clarifies that Jesus’ Resurrection is a physical, historical event. The Risen Jesus is not a ghost, he’s not a vision, he’s not a fantasy. His body is not in the tomb. Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again.

Like other verses in Sacred Scripture, the detail about John running faster and Peter arriving after contains a spiritual meaning for us. One disciple arrives earlier, another disciple comes later, but they both meet together at the same holy place on Easter morning. They enter in together and see signs and results of Christ’s Resurrection inviting them to believe and accept that the world has changed. Sin and death do not have the last word. Jesus Christ is Lord.

Today, those of us here are like those two disciples. Maybe you’re a disciple who ran here faster. Or maybe you’re one who has arrived more slowly. Maybe you’ve been waiting here, preparing to enter into Easter, since the beginning of Lent. Or maybe you have not come to this holy place for months or years, until today. Either way, whether you came here first or last, all of us are called and blessed to be here together now.

How shall we respond to Easter? With faith or faithlessness? On the first Easter morning, St. Peter could have chosen to leave the tomb and return to his former life of commercial fishing. St. John, the newly-entrusted guardian of Jesus’ Mother Mary, could have abandoned her and fled far away, never to return. But both men chose to remain with the other disciples and soon experienced Christ alive among them.

I hope we all, from this day forward, will be here together each Sunday. Prioritize your faith above the world, like St. Peter did. Draw nearer to Mary and the saints, like St. John did. Remain with us here at St. Paul’s, as fellow disciples of Christ, to experience Jesus Christ alive among us. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. So believe in him, accepting how he has changed our world.

He Proved Faithful — Good Friday Homily

March 25, 2016

Few proved faithful to Jesus on Good Friday, but on Good Friday Jesus proved himself faithful to us.

The political leaders were supposed to serve justice, but Pilate and Herod failed to protect Jesus as an innocent man. Jesus protected us when we were guilty.

The religious leaders were supposed to serve holiness, but the High Priests and the Sanhedrin failed to accept Jesus as their Messiah. Jesus accepted us so that we might become holy.

The disciples were supposed to serve their teacher and lord, but Judas betrayed him, Peter denied him, and the others abandoned him. By enduring his suffering and death, Jesus proved himself faithful to us.

Jesus’ mother Mary was faithful. She stood with him at the foot of the cross. It was a consolation for Jesus to have her there. Two of his beloved disciples were also there: Mary Magdalene and the apostle John. Jesus was grateful to have them close by.

Today, on this Good Friday, by the grace of God, we are at the foot of the cross. Let us pray for mercy, for ourselves and for others. Despite our past unfaithfulness, let us honor his faithfulness to us. Jesus is pleased that we are here with him, and he is grateful for our gratitude.

View From the Cross by Tissot

Taking Jesus Too Literally

September 30, 2015

Jesus Facepalm

We do well to closely heed all that our Lord Jesus says, but we must also carefully understand what the Word of God Incarnate is really telling us. Using Scripture to interpret Scripture, let us consider two examples where some modern-day Christians misinterpret Jesus’ teaching by taking him too literally.

 

“Do not swear at all”

Jesus declares, “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all; not by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black. Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:33-37)

Swearing an oath or vow invokes God as one’s witness to a claim or a promise and invites God’s just punishments if his name is taken in vain. It seems that people in Jesus’ day were trying to steal credibility without fearing divine retribution by swearing by lesser holy things. But Jesus warns that all good things belong to God, and condemns clever manipulations of the truth as coming from the devil. Instead, Jesus says, “do not swear at all,” but “let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes.’”

So do any appropriate times and places remain for swearing oaths or vows in the New Covenant? God reveals that such exist through St. Paul. In Galatians 1:20 and 2nd Corinthians 1:23, God himself inspires St. Paul to swear oaths (for example, “I call upon God as witness, on my life, that it is to spare you that I have not yet gone to Corinth.“) And in Acts 18:18, we read that St. Paul “had taken a vow.” Thus, in rare, righteous, and serious situations a Christian may solemnly swear to things before God.


“Call no one on earth your father”

Jesus tells us, “Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven.” (Matthew 23:9) Does this mean that we should not call priests (or our even own dads) “Father?” This is not how the first Christians understood Jesus’ words.

St. Stephen calls the Jewish leaders “fathers” in Acts 7:2, and St. Paul does similarly in Acts 22:1. God prompted St. John to address Christian community elders as “fathers.” (1st John 2:13-14) God also willed St. Paul to write of “our father Isaac” and to call Abraham “the father of us all.” (Romans 9:10, 4:16-17) God inspired St. Paul to regard and describe himself as a father to his spiritual children. (1st Corinthians 4:14-15, 1st Timothy 1:2, Titus 1:4, Philemon 10) Therefore, the true concern of our Lord is not with the label of “father,” but that our greatest devotion and love always be directed toward “our Father who art in Heaven.”

Seen and Unseen — December 28 — St. John the Evangelist

December 27, 2010

Today’s Gospel says that when John the Apostle went into the tomb on Easter morning “he saw and believed.” What did he see that led him to believe? Was it how the burial cloth which had wrapped Jesus’ body wasn’t taken away or tossed in a mess on the floor,  but left behind (perhaps deflated) in its place? Or was the cloth which had covered the Lord’s head rolled up in a familiar way, such that John recognized Jesus’ hand behind it. Or perhaps, if the Shroud of Turin is truly the burial shroud of Christ, John believed through beholding its testimony to the resurrection.

On the other hand, maybe it wasn’t something John saw that led him to believe, but something he didn’t see. Perhaps it was from the fact that Jesus wasn’t there that he infered the truth. “Dead bodies don’t just disappear for no reason at all. I didn’t do this. None of us did this. And what motive would our enemies have to take Him? This is the work of God.”

Just as John may have inferred the resurrection of Jesus from the empty tomb, so we can infer the truth of God from the presence of the universe: “Things don’t just appear for no reason at all. I didn’t make this. None of us made this. And how could an enemy have to create beauty, life, and love? This is the work of God.”

Tradition says that after Jesus entrusted the care of His mother into the care of John the Apostle, they went to live in what is modern-day Turkey.  What if we had gone to visit them in their home at Ephesus and asked them how someone can believe in the God of the universe, or the Lord Jesus Christ, when their reality can sometimes seem so distant.

I can imagine Mary or John replying, “Beloved, the One who was from the beginning, whom we have heard, whom we have seen with our eyes, whom we looked upon and touched with our hands, the Word of God, the Word of Life, the Lord Jesus Christ——we have seen Him, and testify to Him, and proclaim to you His eternal life.” The Christian faith is firmly founded, upon the unseen things we can infer and the things which we  have seen.