I’ve been struggling to write about the first sentence of John’s Gospel. I started by pointing out how extraordinarily different it is from the other three. Matthew, Mark and Luke all talk about Jesus’ human origins – wonderful, of course. Matthew lists the genealogy so we know that Jesus was indeed descended from King David. Mark recounts the very start of Jesus’ earthly mission as he’s baptized. And of course Luke gives us the most familiar narrative of Jesus’ humble birth in a stable.
But John, that Eagle, soars over these “merely” earthy origins, bypassing them to place Jesus in the very center of the Trinity, creating and enlightening the universe before time!
As I was trying to write this, the academician in me crept out. It went in different directions – all related to Jesus’ amazing beginning – which was not really a beginning because it was outside of time. Because we, on the other hand, are very much creatures of time. I had opened the proverbial can of worms. How does one wrap one’s head around something that is absolutely impossible to experience? All words fail.
Then I realized: no, one Word does not fail.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
I heard that Word repeated in John’s sentence, and I heard it like a bell ringing three times, once for each person in the Trinity!
Now I knew I was in trouble, because how do we understand the Trinity? A great mind such as Augustine’s tried to comprehend this inscrutable doctrine. And if God, as Trinity, is so impossible to understand, why do we so insist on it, in our Creed, in our Christian faith?
Then came the answer: through the Word, the very Wisdom of God. Seeing us in this dark place and time, having pity on us, this great and inscrutable God humbled himself to become human. And the Word was made flesh . . .
As if this were not enough, the Word, now humanized (so to speak), this Word dwelt among us. Lived with us. Felt like us. Learned as we learn. Hurt as we hurt. Enjoyed as we enjoy. Spoke with words of forgiveness, mercy and unconditional love! The Word spoke the Father and the Holy Spirit. The Son was sent, not as royal ambassador, but as a servant to teach us, to meet evil forces head on for us, to know rejection and exclusion, to welcome us and let each of us know how lovable we are. Who else would do this, but an infinitely loving God?
And again, as if this were not enough, St. Paul tells us (in his letter to the Colossians) that the mystery of God’s love, hidden for ages, is now ready to be revealed, because Jesus Christ has taught it to us. He lives not only with us but in us. The mystery is little by little revealed in us as the indwelling Christ teaches us to love as he, God, loves.
Though John tells us the brutally sad truth that his own did not accept him, he does not leave us without hope.
To those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.
How lovely that we truly have reason to rejoice on this Gaudete (“Rejoice”) Sunday! Let this be our joyful and continuing Advent prayer: Thanks be to God for the Incarnate Word.
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Click on the arrow below to hear Fauré’s choral work, Cantique – To the Word Incarnate