Feast of St. John the Apostle at Mississippi Abbey

Fr. Raymond Brown tells the story of a Buddhist monk who was curious about Christianity. He asked a missionary for more information. The priest gave him a copy of the Gospel According to St. John.  

Later they happened to meet again. The missionary asked the Buddhist if he had read the Gospel. The Buddhist said he couldn’t get beyond the first line, “In the beginning was the Word.” It puzzled and annoyed him. He continued, “Why didn’t John write, ‘In the beginning there was silence’? You Christians have such a noisy God.”1

Well, yes, in a way we do have a noisy God who spoke to us through the prophets, and then through his Son, the Eternal Word who became flesh so that we could hear God’s Word with our own ears. In the last line of John’s Gospel, he writes, “if every one of the things Jesus did were written down, … the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”

Fr. Raphael Simon of Spencer Abbey, wrote about the influence the Gospel had on him in his search for God. He was born of Jewish parents in New York City, in 1909. After becoming a psychiatrist and struggling with his Jewish faith, he was troubled by what seemed to be an unaccountable gap between the God of his fathers who spoke to the ancient prophets, and the silence of God ever since, who seems to be so strangely distant.

One day, when he felt troubled and terribly fatigued, he became curious about Christianity, and following an intuition he opened a New Testament. He happened upon the Sermon on the Mount and read these words: “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. … Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Mt. 6:25f). An overwhelming sense of peace flooded his heart.

He decided to read a portion of the Gospels every day. Previously, the name of Jesus only stirred up thoughts of resentment. But now he was determined to read with an open mind. By the time he reached chapter 20 in St. John’s Gospel, at the scene in the upper room where Christ passes through closed doors, and Thomas the Apostle cries out, “My Lord and my God,” a great change took place in Dr. Simon’s own heart. He writes, “I realized that I believed, and that the loving Savior had passed through the locked doors of my heart. … My eyes and ears were opened and my heart melted as I discovered the lovableness of Jesus. He is indeed the Son of God.”2 Dr. Simon was baptized in 1936 and entered the Trappist Abbey in Rhode Island four years later, taking the name Raphael.3

Yes, we have a noisy God who not only speaks his Word to us, but has drawn very near in the Person of His Son. As St. John writes, “We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of life, … so that you may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ” (1 Jn 1:1-3).

  1. Raymond E. Brown, A Retreat with John the Evangelist, St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1998, 37.
  2. O’Brien, Road to Damascus, Double Day & Co, 1950, 110-123
  3. Raphael Simon, The Glory of Thy People, Story of a Conversion, Macmillan Co. 1948.