Ordinary of the Mass
Blessing of Saint John's Wine
Today is the feast of Saint John the
Apostle. I want to tell you a little about Saint John, but as I do so, I
would like you to consider the transforming effect of the three years that he
spent with our Lord.
John was the younger brother of James,
both worked as fishermen with their father Zebedee on the Sea of Galilee.
The family may also have engaged in the sale of that fish at a market in
Jerusalem. Together with Simon‑Peter and his brother Andrew, James
and John were among the first Apostles recruited by our Lord. Andrew had
been a disciple of Saint John the Baptist, and it is conjectured that John had
been one as well.
Saint Matthew relates that our Lord recruited the fishermen Simon‑Peter
and Andrew, to make them “fishers of men,” and shortly thereafter He
recruited James and John, who had been mending nets with Zebedee.
Apparently, James and John were a
rather boisterous pair, for our Lord gave them the nickname “Boanerges,”
which is, “the sons of thunder” in Aramaic.
Later on, when they encountered some Samaritans who would not receive Jesus on
a trip to Jerusalem, they suggested to Him that they might “command fire to
come down from heaven, and consume them.”
John also got rather pushy with a man for the unauthorized use of the name of
Jesus in casting out devils!
The two of them even attempted to persuade Jesus to assign them preferred
seats in heaven at His throne, “one on thy right hand, and the other on
thy left hand, in thy glory.”
In their natural state, they were both boisterous and proud. Our Lord
would change them.
They were boisterous and proud, but
our Lord would channel all that energy, making use of it to do good. On
a number of occasions, they were chosen to accompany Him while the other
Apostles (except Peter), remained behind. Peter also tended to be a bit
impetuous! Peter, James and John alone accompanied Jesus to raise the
apparently dead daughter of Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue at Capharnaum.
Peter, James, and John alone accompanied Jesus to the summit of Mount Thabor
to witness His transfiguration.
Together with Andrew, these three alone would go off with Jesus to learn the
signs that would portend the destruction of Jerusalem, and even the end of the
And it would be Peter, James, and John who would accompany our Lord in His
agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.
John, alone among the Evangelists,
recorded the all important discourse on the Eucharist, which we find toward
the end of his sixth chapter.
This is the discourse in which our Lord promised the multitude the Bread of
Life, His own Body and Blood, without which they could not have eternal life.
John records the skepticism of the crowd: “How can this man give us
his flesh to eat?” He records also that Jesus was steadfast in His
claim, even when people began to walk away—for Jesus meant literally what He
By the end of His time with Jesus,
John would be known as the “disciple whom Jesus loved.”
He would be the disciple who
“reclined on Jesus’ bosom” at the Last Supper—together with His
Blessed Mother, likely, one of a very few to ever hear the beating of His
John would be the only Apostle to
remain with our Lord until the end. Even Peter, the Rock, would be
intimidated by the accusations of the servant‑girl that “this man too
was with Him”; of a second, and of a third who would say: “this man was
also with Him; for he is also a Galilean”; and Peter would run into
the night and “weep bitterly.”
John would go even to the Cross on
which Jesus was to hang during an agonizing death. Having no brothers
and no sons, Jesus would entrust His holy Mother to John’s care, saying to
her “Woman, behold thy son.” “After that, he said to the disciple:
‘Behold thy mother.’ And from that hour, the disciple took her to his
John would take the Blessed Virgin to
Ephesus, where, at the end of her days, she would appear to sleep the
sleep of death, and then, in the company of all the Apostles, to the Valley of
Josaphat outside Jerusalem, whence she would be taken bodily, alive and
immortal into the glory of heaven.
During the persecution, John was
arrested and tried before the Roman Emperor Domitian, who sentenced him to be
boiled in oil.
Having miraculously survived this sentence, John was banished to the island of
Patmos where he wrote the Apocalypse around the year 96 A.D. John
was able to return to Ephesus before his death in about 100 A.D., and
there, at the request of the bishops of Asia ( modern day Turkey), he wrote
his Gospel in order to demonstrate the eternal divine nature of our Lord Jesus
The only Apostle to die a natural
death, John is often thought of as a martyr because of his exile, the severity
of his punishment by Domitian, and his highly ascetic way of life. The
blessing of wine on his feast day commemorates the legend that the Emperor
tried to poison John by ordering him to drink a cup of poisoned wine.
Saint John blessed the wine, and the poison slithered away under the
appearance of a serpent.
As I asked you to do just a few
minutes ago, please consider the effects of life with our Lord Jesus
Christ—a man who was boisterous and proud, became the “beloved
disciple,” the guardian and adopted son of the Blessed Virgin Mary, an
author of sacred Scripture, and died in the glory of sanctity. Perhaps
we cannot write Scripture, but with frequent prayer, meditation, assisting at
Holy Mass, and reception of the Sacraments we too can become beloved disciples
of our Lord, sons and daughters of Mary, and hope someday to die with the glow
of sanctity. This would be a good day to call on Jesus, Mary, and the
Apostle Saint John to help us make these things possible.