The Last Gospel
After the “Go in Peace” and the Blessing, anyone not used to the old form of the Mass would think it was all over. But not so.
In every Mass, the Last Gospel is then read. And funnily enough, the Last Gospel is usually the First Words of the Gospel according to John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. This is what John thought was the best introduction to the Good News he was about to tell.
The first sentences are heavenly, set in the realm of Creation. The Word is the creator of all things; he is Life and Light for all mankind; the primeval darkness is conquered by his Light.
And then we zooms down to earth. “There was a man sent from God , whose name was John”. Wow! Talk about bathos! But then John the Evangelist has to make clear to his readers that this John (the Baptist) was not the Light he was talking about, but a witness to that light. And the Greek word for witness was “martyrion”, and not one of his first readers would be unaware of the awful fate of John the Baptist as the first Martyr/Witness to Jesus.
Then John goes on to make the vast claim the Jesus was “the true light that lighteneth every man that cometh into the world”. EVERY person – not just the Jews, but every nation was given light by the Word of God. St Paul says the same when he says that every person knows good through the natural law. Jesus was “in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not” – it’s like Christopher Wren being stopped at the door and being told that only authorised people could enter St Paul’s Cathedral! Imagine the verger’s red face – so imagine the Jews’ red face! “He came unto his own, and his own received him not”. Oops!
But then John says that those who did receive him, those who recognised their Maker and Redeemer, were given power. Their batteries were charged so that they had the divine energy of God. to become not slaves, not even friends, but Children of God, entirely through God’s free gift. A possibility for everyone!
Then comes the most wonderful sentence of all, when all the talk about the Word, the Logos, the great creative energy of God, says what no Greek or Hebrew philosophy had ever said: “THE WORD BECAME FLESH, AND DWELT AMONG US”. That is when we fall to our knees in adoration, as John himself had done with his brother James and their friend Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration. There (and here at the end of the Mass) “we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth”.
What more can the Congregation say than “Thanks be to God.”? Then we stagger into the world he made, hopefully trailing some of that glory with us.