The darkness of sin and death cannot overcome the light of Christ. Fr Adrian Graffy reflects on this week’s Scripture readings.
1 In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things came to be, not one thing had its being but through him. 4 All that came to be had life in him, and that life was the light of men, 5 a light that shines in the dark, a light that darkness could not overpower. 6 A man came, sent by God. His name was John. 7 He came as a witness, as a witness to speak for the light, so that
everyone might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, only a witness to speak for the light. 9 The Word was the true light that enlightens all men; and he was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world that had its being through him, and the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own domain and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to all who believe in the name of him 13 who was born not out of human stock or urge of the flesh or will of man but of God himself. 14 The Word was made flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory, the glory that is his as the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.
15 John appears as his witness. He proclaims: ‘This is the one of whom I said: He who comes after me ranks before me because he existed before me.’ 16 Indeed, from his fulness we have, all of us, received – yes, grace in return for grace, 17 since, though the Law was given through Moses, grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; it is the only Son, who is nearest to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
Other readings: Ecclesiasticus 24:1-2,8-12 Psalm 147 (148) Ephesians 1:3-6,15-18
This Sunday of the Christmas season offers the opportunity to reflect quietly with the help of the Scripture readings on the deeper meaning of the coming of Christ. Our first reading, from the extensive writings of the sage known as Ben Sira, offers a reflection on how ‘Wisdom’ pitches her tent among the people of God. The one who was from the beginning ‘takes root in a privileged people’. These words are fulfilled in the becoming flesh of the Son of God. This is momentously expressed in the first chapter of the Fourth Gospel, read today: ‘the Word was made flesh and lived among us.’
John the evangelist calls Jesus ‘the Word’, for in him God has spoken his fullest word to the human race. The Prologue also refers to Jesus as ‘the true Light’, for he brings truth and direction in our darkness. The darkness of sin and death cannot overcome the light of Christ. Many will reject the Word, but those who accept him become children of God. Our gospel also refers to the witness of John the Baptist, who points to one greater than himself.
We have all received from the fulness of the Word. In the opening of the Letter to the Ephesians we bless God who has chosen us in Christ to be adopted sons and daughters.
How can we ever fathom the marvellous love of God who humbles himself to share in our humanity?
Do I appreciate or simply forget that I am an adopted child of God?
We pray that the feast of Christmas will shed light on our darkness.
Let us open our hearts to the grace and truth which come to us in Christ.
Rev Dr Adrian Graffy is a member of the Vatican Commission that takes a lead in Bible scholarship, interpretation and promotion in the Catholic Church.
Rev Dr Graffy said of his five-year appointment by Pope Francis in 2014: “It is an honour to be nominated by Pope Francis as a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. I feel humbled and very much look forward to being of service to His Holiness and the Church.”
He added: “A great deal has been achieved in England and Wales in recent years by many co-workers to advance Biblical scholarship and the provision of easy-to-use resources. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and the Bishops’ Conference Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis for their efforts to promote understanding and love of the Bible, particularly through the publication of the teaching documents, The Gift of Scripture and the study guide to Verbum Domini, The Word of the Lord.”
Rev Dr Graffy received his doctorate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1983. He taught for over 20 years in St John’s Seminary in Wonersh, and is Chair of the National Scripture Working Group, which is an instrument of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Fr Graffy is a past director of Brentwood’s Commission for Evangelisation and Formation and parish priest of Christ the Eternal High Priest in Gidea Park, Essex. Among his publications are the Gospel of Mark and the Letter to the Romans (Alive Publishing).
Listen to BBC Essex interview with Fr Adrian Graffy