Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!


Ave Maria!
Feast of Saint John, within the Octave of
Christmas—27 December AD 2015

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text 
Blessing of Saint John's Wine


    Today is the feast of Saint John the apostle.  Since it is part of the Christmas Octave, it is celebrated approximately once in every seven years.  So, a few words are in order about Saint John.

    John was the younger brother of James, and they were the sons of a fisherman named Zebedee and his wife Salome.  The bothers were called by our Lord to be Apostles just after Peter and his brother Andrew.[1]  We know from John’s Gospel that Andrew had been a follower of John the Baptist, and it is likely that John was as well—although he makes a point of never mentioning himself by name in his Gospel.[2]  When Jesus summoned them, both sets of brothers dropped everything and followed Him.

    From all indications, John was the youngest of the Apostles, never married, and most detached from the things of the world.  This quality seems to have endeared him to Jesus, and it is virtually certain that he is referring to himself when he writes about “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”[3]  In today’s Gospel we hear that John “leaned on [Jesus] breast at supper, and said: ‘Lord, who is he that shall betray thee?’”—there is a degree of personal concern and intimacy which makes John seem like Jesus’ younger brother.

    Quite likely, John was the “other disciple” who went with Peter after Jesus had been taken away by the Jews—that disciple was known to the high priest, and went in with Jesus into the court of the high priest.”[4]  His concern for Jesus was such that he followed Him even into the den of the enemy!

    He followed Jesus all the way to the place of His crucifixion—apparently, the only Apostle to do so.  He was there at the foot of the Cross, and was entrusted with the care of Jesus’ Blessed Virgin Mother.  Again it was as if John were the younger brother: “He said to his mother: Woman, behold thy son…. [Son] behold thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own.”[5]  Good Catholics are all devoted to our Blessed Mother—imagine what it would be like to have her living in your own home!  On leaving Jerusalem, she lived with John in the city of Ephesus until the time of her Assumption into heaven.

    While at Ephesus, John was prevailed upon by the bishops of Asia Minor (current day Turkey) to write the fourth Gospel.  In answer to some heretics call Ebionites, who denied His divine origin, this Gospel directly addresses the divinity of Jesus Christ:  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”[6]  Referring to Jesus as the “Word” held special significance for the students of Greek philosophy—the “Word,” the “λόγος” was the organizing principle of the universe, that which brought chronos out of chaos.  But John’s λόγος was more than an organizer of what most Greeks considered an eternal universe—John’s λόγος was the universe’s Creator:  “All things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made.”[7]

    John’s stay at Ephesus was relatively peaceful until the Emperor Titus died unexpectedly and was followed by the tyrant Domitian in A.D. 81.  Those who failed to honor the Roman “gods” were severely persecuted.  John, himself, barely escaped death, being boiled in oil before the Latin Gate in Rome.[8]  Miraculously delivered from the oil, John was exiled to the island of Patmos, where he wrote the last book of the Bible, the Apocalypse.[9]

    With the death of Domitian in AD 96, John was able to return to Ephesus and to take an active role in the Church there.  In old age, before his death around AD 100, his preaching was limited to repeating the words, “Children, love one another.”  When asked why he repeated these words so often, he replied: “Because it is the Lord’s command, and if you did nothing more, it would suffice.”[10]  It is generally agreed that John wrote his three epistles during these final years at Ephesus.  The first of these three is a marvelous text on loving God, loving one another, and seeking God’s mercy through Jesus Christ.

    It is not all that often that we observe a saint’s feast day on Sunday.  But Saint John was something special, and the Church proposes him to us so that we might emulate him:

·                 He was a man of spotless purity and detachment from things of the world.

·                 He was devoted to Our Lord Jesus Christ and to His Blessed Virgin Mother—not just in prayer, but in his actions.

·                 He spent his life as a witness to the divinity of Jesus Christ—not just in preaching and writing, but at the very risk of life itself.

    This is the “disciple whom Jesus loved.”  That ought to be reason enough to do everything that he did, patterning our lives after his.  We can share his detachment; we can bring Jesus and Mary into the homes of our hearts; we can witness to Jesus’ divinity in spite of ridicule and persecution.  We should strive without end to emulate Saint John, the “beloved disciple,”

    But, if we fall short, we must, at least, “Love one another.”  For we have this great Saint’s assurance that “it is the Lord’s command, and if you [do] nothing more, it [will] suffice.” 



[1]   Cf. Matthew iv: 18-23

[10]   Saint Jerome, commentary on Galatians.  Lesson vi in today’s Matins.

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