Today is the feast day of my Community — the feast of St. John, the Apostle. St. John is also my patron saint and the saint I try most to emulate in my daily life.
St. John, a fisherman, the son of Zebedee, and the brother of St. James the Great, was called to be an Apostle by our Lord in the first year of His public ministry, and he travelled everywhere with Him.
St. John is known as the Beloved Disciple, the Apostle of Love. Why was he identified in this way? John loved Jesus greatly, and he demonstrated a meek, mild, tender, humble, and peaceable disposition that made him very much like Our Lord himself. Also, his singular privilege of chastity, his virginal purity rendered him worthy of this more particular love.
As St. Augustine explains, “He was chosen by our Lord, a virgin, and he always remained such. Christ was pleased to choose a virgin for his mother, a virgin for his precursor, and a virgin for his favorite disciple. His church suffers only those who live perfectly chaste to serve Him in His priesthood, where they daily touch and offer His virginal flesh upon the altar.”
At the Last Supper, Jesus allowed John to rest upon His breast. John is the one apostle who never abandoned Jesus, but stayed by Him to the very end. John was the only Apostle present at the Crucifixion and stood at the foot of His cross. It is there that Jesus entrusted His mother to the care of His friend. Consequently, John took Mary into his home, loved her, and cared for her as if she were his own mother.
Upon hearing of the Resurrection, he was the first to reach the tomb; when he met the risen Lord at the lake of Tiberias, he was the first to recognize Him.
St. John spent his later life in Jerusalem and at Ephesus. He founded many churches in Asia Minor. He wrote the fourth Gospel, and three Epistles, and the Book of Revelation is also attributed to him. Brought to Rome, tradition relates that he was by order of Emperor Dometian cast into a cauldron of boiling oil but came forth unhurt and was banished to the island of Pathmos for a year. He lived to an extreme old age, surviving all his fellow apostles, and died at Ephesus about the year 100.
St. John’s Teachings
Here is what our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, had to say about St. John’s teachings in his General audience for 09/08/06:
If there is one characteristic topic that emerges from John’s writings, it is love… John, of course, is not the only author of Christian origin to speak of love. Since this is an essential constituent of Christianity, all the New Testament writers speak of it, although with different emphases. If we are now pausing to reflect on this subject in John, it is because he has outlined its principal features insistently and incisively. We therefore trust his words.
One thing is certain: he does not provide an abstract, philosophical or even theological treatment of what love is. No, he is not a theoretician. True love, in fact, by its nature is never purely speculative but makes a direct, concrete and even verifiable reference to real persons. Well, John, as an Apostle and a friend of Jesus, makes us see what its components are, or rather, the phases of Christian love.
The first concerns the very Source of love, which the Apostle identifies as God, arriving at the affirmation that “God is love” (1Jn 4,8; 16). John is the only New Testament author who gives us definitions of God. He says, for example, that “God is spirit” (Jn 4,24) or that “God is light” (1Jn 1,5). Here he proclaims with radiant insight that “God is love”. Take note: it is not merely asserted that “God loves”, or even less that “love is God”! In other words: John does not limit himself to describing the divine action but goes to its roots. Moreover, he does not intend to attribute a divine quality to a generic and even impersonal love. He does not rise from love to God, but turns directly to God to define his nature with the infinite dimension of love. By so doing, John wants to say that the essential constituent of God is love and hence, that all God’s activity is born from love and impressed with love: all that God does, he does out of love and with love, even if we are not always immediately able to understand that this is love, true love.
Prayer to Saint John the Evangelist
O Glorious Saint John, you were so loved by Jesus that you merited to rest your head upon his breast, and to be left in his place as a son to Mary. Obtain for us an ardent love for Jesus and Mary. Let me be united with them now on earth and forever after in heaven.