I have had the experience lately of seeing former students of mine share pictures of their children. Some are pictures of newborn infants, while others are pictures of children who are growing up quite quickly. What is the most powerful for me is seeing the change that these dramatic events have caused in students I first met in school. So many of them have gone from being immature, self-centered individuals, to mature parents who take opinions they would never have defended in high school.
What is most exciting to me, are those pictures that show not only joy filled children the joy filled parents. For many of them, as happy as their wedding day was, there is a certain sense of even deeper fulfillment as they raise their family. The easy lesson is that true love must be shared. We simply cannot hang on to love only for ourselves. Otherwise it remains incomplete.
This is the message of John whose feast we celebrate today. The telling of the story, the safeguarding of the events, makes the joy of John and others complete. The great mystery of faith is not made complete until it is shared with others. So immense was the joy of the early followers of Jesus, they simply could not keep it to themselves. It simply had to be shared.
Yet again, two days after the celebration of the baby Jesus, our readings draw us to the resurrection. The octave of Easter, the eight days we celebrate from December 25 until January 1, our eight days, each of which is an extension of Christmas. In fact, rather than thinking of Christmas as eight days, it is rather, one day that lasts for eight.
Yet with the exception of the readings we heard Christmas Day and Christmas Eve which describe the baby Jesus, the readings we’ve heard since have focused on the resurrected Christ. This is because we cannot have one event in isolation. Incarnation only makes sense in the context of the suffering and resurrection of Jesus. It is the Paschal Mystery we celebrate during this great octave of Easter. It is the Paschal Mystery we celebrate in every sacrament of the Church.
To be sure, the incarnation is miraculous. The enfleshed experience of God with us is amazing. But what is more amazing for persons of faith, for Catholic sacraments, is the Paschal Mystery: the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The Paschal Mystery is always at the center of Catholic worship. But this Catholic worship is never meant for an individual, for just as John tells us in the first reading, we share what we have seen and what we have heard so that our joy may be complete.