December 26, 2016

Feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist

St. John the Apostle
December 27th, is the feast of Saint John the Apostle, Evangelist and "beloved disciple". He wrote the Gospel bearing his name, three Epistles and the Book of Revelation. A fisherman by trade, he was born in Galilee, the son of Zebedee and Salome, and younger brother of Saint James the Great. Together with his brother and Saint Peter, he was singled out to witness the raising of Jairus’ daughter, the Transfiguration and Christ’s prayer in Gethsemane. Standing at the foot of the cross, Jesus entrusts His Mother to John’s care. John is the only Apostle (besides Judas) spared from martyrdom, despite several attempts on his life.

James and John, whom Christ called the "sons of thunder" were mending nets with their father when the Savior asked them to follow Him. This epithet applies in a particular way to John, who courageously proclaimed the most sublime mysteries of Christ’s divinity. He was the youngest of all the Apostles, probably about 25, at the time of his calling. Portrayals of John at the Last Supper depict him with his head resting near Jesus’ heart. It is clear that our Lord was especially close to John. Hence the Evangelist referring to himself as "The disciple whom Jesus loved". Christ’s affection was due in part to John’s youth, innocence, personal piety and fervent love for God.

In addition to forming a sort of inner circle along with Peter and his brother, with Christ, and witnessing the aforementioned miraculous events, John distinguished himself in other ways. He was the only one of the twelve Apostles who did not forsake the Savior in the hour of His Passion and Death. John's purity and unfailing devotion kept him close to Jesus and Mary for the remainder of his life.

Tradition tells us that John lived to be very old, and most scholars believe that the Gospel of John is the last of the four to be written. To John, the most important thing was to remind his readers that Jesus Christ was truly God Incarnate, the Word of God who existed with God from the beginning. John’s Gospel is probably intended for Jewish Christians since it is filled with illusions to Old Testament events and symbols that only a Jewish audience could understand. The Gospel of John is the most advanced theologically. Stressing Jesus' divinity, it has events, and highlights Christ’s ministry in ways, not found in the synoptics.

At some point, he was seized by an angry mob and thrown off a building of great height. This attempt to martyr him failed. On another occasion, he was brought to Rome and, according to popular piety, cast into a caldron of boiling oil by order of Emperor Domitian, only to emerge miraculously unhurt. Toward the end of his life, he was exiled to the Island of Patmos, where he composed the Book of Revelation. Afterward, he returned to Ephesus. In his old age, he continued to visit the churches of Asia. Saint Jerome relates that when weakness prevented him from preaching, he was carried to the assembled faithful by his disciples, telling those gathered: "My dear children, love one another." St. John the Apostle died peacefully at Ephesus around 100 AD. Almighty God, who through the blessed Apostle John has unlocked for us the secrets of your Word, grant, that we may grasp with understanding what he has so marvelously brought to our ears.

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