Reflection for John – Apostle and Evangelist
Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. From John 21: 19b-25, NIV.
Millions to receive Oxford jab from Jan 4 – Sunday Telegraph.
It may seem strange that, just two days after Christmas, today’s reading features the last verses of St John’s Gospel to do with the end of Jesus’s earthly ministry at a time when his birth is still being celebrated. That’s because the Church honours today the person whose Gospel has inspired so many, whether or not John the Apostle and John the Evangelist are one and the same. John was one of the sons of Zebedee who followed Jesus and was present at the Transfiguration, the last supper, the agony in Gethsemane and stood at the foot of the cross with Mary. Called the beloved disciple, he was a witness to the resurrection and was later exiled to Patmos, probably because of his writing – particularly in Revelation where mention of the beast was thought by many to be referring to the Roman Emperor. From the earliest days, the Roman Empire tried to suppress Christianity and, at a time when so many are still facing persecution and exile, John’s exile may hearten those experiencing it today.
John’s Gospel refers to the many other things Jesus did that are not actually written down and which are now unknown. As the mammoth task begins to carry out Covid vaccinations for so many millions of people and implement the Brexit trade agreement with Europe, amidst the publicity and known documentation there are many other things which have also been done to facilitate this, of which we may also not be aware. It’s not only the scientists and politicians but also the suppliers providing not just the vaccine but the personnel, needles, phials, cotton wool, plasters, cartons, PPE, fridges, transport, storage……… so many requisites and lives that are entwined and involved, knowingly or unknowingly. Many unseen personnel have been involved in the Brexit negotiations too and the costly complexity was quickly shown in the queues that recently speedily built up near Dover, with so many drivers being stranded and kept away from their own families whilst bringing or taking to others the goods and items that it can be so easy to take for granted.
There must have been unseen people and shadowy figures helping or hindering Mary and Joseph too at the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Did the unknown innkeeper supply food as well as accommodation? Was there a midwife who assisted at the birth? Did the kinsfolk who must also have been in their home town help or stay away through social embarrassment – why could no room be found even for a relative about to give birth? Who helped the family as they fled to exile in Egypt when Herod had so many innocent children massacred and how did the parents and soldiers cope afterwards when forced to live with such terrible memories?
If every one of these things was written down, writes John, there would not be enough room in all the world and yet, would it make any difference to our response today as massacres still continue, innocents are killed, vaccines are developed and help is both needed and supplied by the unknown people whose actions affect our lives with or without us being aware of it? Each of us will also affect countless lives by what we say, do or buy and, as the Brexit trade agreement with 1,200 pages is published so late in the process, spare a thought for those who, unseen by so many, had to redraft it and then put it online or suddenly supply the paper and folders, print and circulate it. Perhaps one of the things to be thankful for as we continue to seek meaning in this complex world of ours is that we don’t all have to read it!
With my prayers,