Saint John Neumann, Bishop
1 John 3:11-23; John 1:43-51
On this Day when we commemorate the founding Bishop of this Diocese of Rochester, Saint John Neuman the readings focus our attention on John the Evangelist‘s writings. John had been the youngest among the twelve chosen men to be our Lord’s Apostles . It is not surprising then he outlived all the others and seems to have written the ‘Epistles preserved through the centuries to our own day only after long experience of the ministry. There is a simplicity of expression in his letters that can be quite misleading, for there is an obvious depth of experience and a force of expression that requires his readers to reflect on the implications of his words if we would grasp their fuller significance. Take the statement we have heard a few minutes ago as an example: “The way we came to know love was that he (Jesus) laid down his life for us so we may lay down our life for our brothers.” Am I ready for such a witness to our Lord? Jesus has warned his Apostles that “Many are called but few are chosen.”
We do well to reflect on this question frequently. When we are confronted with our own death what will our disposition be? When will it come remains a mystery for each person. Thousands die in our country every day in accidents and unexpected happenings at all ages of life and of various causes. I often remember a friend of my youth who contracted Hodgkin Disease and died aged 24. Saint John himself speaks from experience. In his early years as an Apostle he was tortured and only by a special act of Providence survived the ordeal. He understood that in this world true charity is practical so he adds: ”Children let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.”
Our Lord in the Gospel we have just heard confronts Nathaniel at their first meeting with a statement that takes this skeptic by surprise. He seems to reveal an altogether unexpected knowledge of some private experience Nathaniel had while resting under a fig tree. Was it an inspired dream that meant so much to this rather skeptical man? In any case Our Lord’s words came as a revelation to him that gave him the conviction that this insightful person that Philip introduced him to was more than human: “You are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel.” From that moment till his death as a witness to Jesus Nathaniel proved to be one of Christ’s more fervent and faithful witnesses. May his intercession for us today obtain the graces we stand in need us to follow his example of fidelity to Jesus, the Redeemer, who gives us hope of eternal life.