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And the Word Became Flesh
December 31st Readings Reflection: The Seventh Day in the Octave of Christmas
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.
What came to be through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;
the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.
A man named John was sent from God.
He came for testimony, to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light,
but came to testify to the light.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
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,
to those who believe in his name,
who were born not by natural generation
nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision
but of God.
And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only-begotten Son,
full of grace and truth.
John testified to him and cried out, saying,
“This was he of whom I said,
‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me
because he existed before me.’”
From his fullness we have all received,
grace in place of grace,
because while the law was given through Moses,
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God.
The only-begotten Son, God, who is at the Father’s side,
has revealed him.
Today’s Gospel reading is the Prologue of St. John’s Gospel and contains incredibly rich truths about the creation of the world and salvation history. “In the beginning was the Word.” In the Book of Genesis, we read that God created heaven and earth by saying, “Let there be —” and immediately it was (cf. Gen 1). This Word of God — called Logos in Theology, after the Greek word for word or reason — is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, Jesus Christ.
“And the Word became flesh and made [H]is dwelling among us.” This is the great mystery of the Incarnation, which we reaffirm every time we pray the Creed: “By the power of the Holy Spirit, [He] was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man.” We always bow or genuflect at these words out of reverence for the Incarnation, which is the moment our God took on human flesh to save mankind from their sin and reopen the gates of Heaven.
It is through this Logos, this Word of God, that all things came to be. On that first Christmas so many years ago, the Creator of the world was born as a human Baby, yet “the world did not know [H]im.” While many did come to recognize Him as the Redeemer and followed Him, many others did not and ultimately put Him to death. They were face to face with the Word of God made flesh, yet they did not recognize Him as such.
It can be hard for us to fathom how these people did not recognize that Jesus is God, yet I have heard the following question posed in answer to this: If you had lived in Jesus’ time, would you have recognized Him as the Messiah, the Son of God? It’s certainly a question that makes one stop and reflect. Would I have accepted His Word and recognized Him as the long-expected Redeemer? Or would I have followed the Scribes and Pharisees in condemning Him?
In our own lives as Catholics, we have the opportunity to recognize Him on earth, this time under the appearance of bread and wine in the Holy Eucharist. Only about 30% of Catholics believe that the Eucharist is truly the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ; most believe that the Sacrament is merely symbolic. The Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is by no means easy to understand; however, we must accept it humbly and see Him present through the eyes of Faith.
Through the Eucharist, today’s Gospel reading occurs all over again, albeit in a somewhat different way. The Word becomes physically present on earth again whenever a priest pronounces the words of the Consecration; the same Word comes to us physically every time we receive Holy Communion. I love meditating on this Prologue of St. John’s Gospel in light of the Blessed Sacrament, for it brings such a beautiful insight into the sacred mystery of the Eucharist.
On this New Year’s Eve, may we pray for the grace to always recognize Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament, so that we may draw closer to Him in this new year.