Feast of Saint John the Evangelist
1 John 1:1-4
John 20:1a, 2-8
Pope Benedict XVI has proclaimed this the Year of Evangelization, but the word seems to have many diverse meanings. For some, it means to convert or persuade others to accept Catholic Christian beliefs and doctrines. Others look to the Greek origins of the word (εὐαγγέλιον) – good news or good tidings – and say it is more about proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ. On this Feast of John the Evangelist perhaps a look at today’s readings can help 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. (1 John 1:3)
The first Christians, living in a pagan culture rampant with violence and self-interest, simply lived an alternate lifestyle, one proclaimed by Jesus of Nazareth, ("… and all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number…" Acts 5:14). The Church grew because people were inspired by the passion with which followers of the Rabbi from Nazareth embraced this new Way of living… loving enemies, and washing feet, taking the last place, and turning ones cheek.
Jesuit Fr. William O’Malley says (Help My Unbelief, Obis Books, 2008), "Scientists work from consequences to probable causes. So should seekers for human meaning. They corroborate their inferences with experience. So should those who seek God. Modern biology has improved health care and life expectancy. One would hope belief in God would produce a recognizable enrichment of human life. Jesus himself said, "By their fruits you will know them" (Matthew 7:16).
With so many wounds and scandal in our Church today, perhaps our current call to evangelize has more to do with reforming contemporary Church structures than persuading others to accept Catholic doctrine, much less chastising others to return to the Sacrament of Penance! Why else would Jesus allude so often to the natural metaphor? "A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit." (Matthew 7:18)
Recently fifty-year-old Abbot Mertin Werlen (member of the Swiss bishops’ conference) made a fiery appeal for church reform, including a call for dialog on: remarried divorced people now barred from Communion, granting greater voice to local churches over the nomination of bishops, priestly celibacy, and the appointment of cardinals. Abbot Werlen suggested that men and women from all over the world, young and old, could be elected to the cardinalate for a period of five years and could meet with the pope every three months in Rome. "Such meetings could bring a new dynamism into Church leadership," Werlen suggested.
"We are writing this so that our joy may be complete!" (1 John 1:4)
Fr. Jack Conley, C.P. ministers as a preacher of parish missions and retreats. He is a member of the Passionist formation community at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.