Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Feast of Saint John the Apostle—27 December AD 2009


El Greco

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text 
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.[1]  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.[2]

    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.[3]  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.”[4]  John also got rather pushy with a man for the unauthorized use of the name of Jesus in casting out devils![5]  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.[6]  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.[7]  Peter, James, and John alone accompanied Jesus to the summit of Mount Thabor to witness His transfiguration.[8]  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 world.[9]  And it would be Peter, James, and John who would accompany our Lord in His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.[10]

    John, alone among the Evangelists, recorded the all important discourse on the Eucharist, which we find toward the end of his sixth chapter.[11]  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 said.

    By the end of His time with Jesus, John would be known as the “disciple whom Jesus loved.”[12]   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 Sacred Heart.

    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.”[13]

    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 own.”[14]

    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.[15]

    During the persecution, John was arrested and tried before the Roman Emperor Domitian, who sentenced him to be boiled in oil.[16]  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 Christ.

    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.


[2]   Matthew iv: 18-22.


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