lunedì 25 dicembre 2017

«Vidimus gloriam eius»

On Christmas, four Masses can be celebrated: in the vigil, during the night, at dawn and during the day. The first three Masses are more “narrative”: the gospels we hear in them tell us what happened that day in Bethlehem. The Mass which is celebrated during the day, instead, has a more “reflective” character; its purpose is not to inform about the events, but to unveil the mystery hidden in those events. The liturgy of this Mass shows who is the Infant who is born today in Bethlehem. It does it especially through the second reading and the gospel, in which we have heard the beginning of the respective books.

Both passages tell us that that Infant is not an ordinary child; he already existed before his earthly birth. The letter to the Hebrews calls him the Son of God; the gospel of John, the Word of God. However, neither of them excludes the designation of the other. The second reading says, “In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he has spoken to us through the Son.” Which means that the Son is the one through whom God speaks, and so he is his Word. And shortly after it adds that he “sustains all things by his mighty word.” In the gospel more than once John styles the Word as the Father’s only Son.

There are several similarities between the two readings. In both cases, the Son/Word of God is the one through whom everything was made. Which means that he is not a stranger, he is not an intruder. As John says, “He came to what was his own.” So, we would expect creatures to be familiar with him and welcome him; instead, “the world did not know him … his own people did not accept him.”

Another concordance between the second reading and the gospel is the fact that the Son is the revealer of God. We have already seen that, according to the letter to the Hebrews, “in these last days, [God] has spoken to us through the Son.” John, ends the prologue of his gospel saying, “No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.” We cannot know God, but through his Son. There are no other ways to know God; God, in himself, is unknowable; we can know something about him only if he decides to make himself known. And he did through his Son.

But in the gospel there is an aspect that is absent in the second reading. The author of the letter to the Hebrews almost certainly did not know Jesus personally; on the contrary, in the gospel of John we find the testimony of two eyewitnesses: John the Baptist and the evangelist himself, who had been first a disciple of the Baptist and then followed Jesus. Well, in the climax of his prologue, John says, “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.” It is not the only place where the evangelist, referring to his first master and to himself, says, “I saw,” “We saw.” They saw; and that is why they spoke. What they say is not the result of their imagination, but the fruit of their personal experience. They saw; and so, they testified to what they saw, so that we too could know what they experienced. In his first letter, John writes, “What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you, so that you may have fellowship with us.”

This year I wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas precisely with these words of John’s gospel: “We saw his glory.” My wish for each of us is to see his glory, as they did, so that we too, like them, may find salvation in him.