The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth

Tom Bartolomeo
Christmas Day C 2013
Isaiah 52: 7-10; Psalm 98;
Hebrews 1: 1-6; John 1: 1-18
Reproduced with Permission

What Child is this who is laid to rest on Mary's lap is sleeping ... ? My favorite Christmas carol. Reminiscent in a different context of Jesus' question to his Apostles in the John's Gospel, "Who do people say that I am?", and the different answers Jesus heard, "John the Baptist, Elijah ... [and] one of the prophets," John 16, 14-16. The Apostle Peter, in one of his brilliant moments, and with the help of the Holy Spirit gave the perfect answer, "You are the Christ", the anointed one of God although he did not understand that Christ would die for our sins. That, too, we celebrate this Christmas.

Today, every question, it seems, has as many answers as there are people including questions about the hard sayings of Jesus or anything religious. We tend to avoid the hard questions and the hard truth. You know, "Be nice." "Father, it's the holidays." In other words, Let's not spoil the fun. For some, holi-day is preferred to "holy day", the original meaning of holiday. The fact is every holiday is a commemoration of a holy or revered experience. The "Prologue" to the Gospel According to John speaks of the Word "in the beginning", repeating the first words of the first book of the Bible,"in the beginning" which recalls and commemorates the beginning of creation, Genesis 1,1.

And today we commemorate the One who "was in the beginning with God", through whom "all things came to be." Rather than describe the circumstance of Jesus' birth as did Matthew and Luke in their gospels, John, the last surviving Apostle, choose to speak of God as the Word begotten from the Father, "the Word was with God" and "the Word was God". Then when the Word "became flesh" Jesus spoke to us in our language, revealing not only himself but the Word spoken by the Father and heard by the Holy Spirit, the Triune God.

John, Apostle and Evangelist, in his Gospel and letters focused on Christ who said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me", John 14, 6. In this he summed up his entire ministry, being born a man, dying and rising from the dead. This is the perennial truth Jesus speaks on Christmas day and every day, I am the Truth and I speak the truth. So frequently when Jesus spoke he would begin with "Amen, amen", meaning, I am telling you the truth. And I am telling you the Truth - without reading and studying Him in his own gospel words and in the body of his Church you will not know him.

As the embodiment and source of the truth John often referred to Christ as "the light of the world" opposed to the darkness of the world. "Let there be light", was God's first act of creation, both physical and spiritual light whose enemies are darkness and lies. Throughout his gospel and letters John speaks to truth and exposes lies. "The light", he says, "shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it", no shades of gray or half-truths which are so common today. "The teachings of the Church are relevant to my circumstances", some say. The great downfall of man, the temptation of the serpent in the garden of Eden began with a lie, a half-truth, with Satan's question posed to Eve, "Did God say, 'You should not eat of any tree in the garden?', adding, 'You will not die' (she had no previous experience of death, only God's word. Am I simply to take God's word?, she thought. Perhaps, It would be good to know evil, and she received her wish), Genesis 3, 1-5.

Had all of you gone to all three of the preceding Christmas Masses, the vigil mass yesterday afternoon, the Mass at midnight and the Mass at dawn--which Gospel story would you favor? They are all different? Perhaps, meld them together in some convenient fashion, a little of this and a little of that. And 'keeping in the spirit of the holiday' slide over some unpleasant matters such as Jesus' words to his Church:

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven,"Matthew 16:19.

Or his words establishing the Church's Sacrament of Penance:

Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive they are forgiven. Whose sins you do not forgive they are not forgiven, John 20, 23.

Or his words, "Keep holy the Sabbath" a day of rest, prayer and Mass, commanding us "Do this in memory of Me" whose command I will repeat at this Mass.

Or his words to those who presume too much:

Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter, Matthew 7:21.

At the vigil Mass the ancestral blood line of Jesus was read, from Abraham to "Joseph, the husband of Mary". At the midnight Mass the birth of Jesus was recounted. At the mass at dawn the story of a Savior born to "men of good will" was told to shepherds who spread "the good tidings" through the countryside. And, finally, at the daytime Christmas Mass the entire life of Christ was proclaimed from beginning to end by the Apostle John sixty years after Jesus' death and resurrection which he summarized in the "The Prologue":

He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him. But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, John 1, 10-12.

But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God ...". He did not make them children of God, but gave them power "to become" children of God ... . a fate each of us decides for himself.

John, the last Apostle of Jesus Christ, survived long enough in this world to live until the second century after the birth of Christ recorded the future of mankind in the Book of the Apocalypse, the last book of the Bible. It may seem fanciful, speaking of Christ as the light, but where else do we have "all that is good" but in God, the source of our life and light, of Truth and Justice. Light was the first act of creation and the first measure of the Son of God as Man in John's gospel - the first and the last light which shines in the world which the darkness will not overcome - waiting for the future in the Book of Revelation where the Lamb of God illumines heaven "who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb."