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Catholic Heroes… St. John The Apostle

January 2, 2018 saints No Comments


John the Apostle, who wrote one of the four Gospels, three letters, and the Book of Revelation, is known as the disciple whom Jesus loved. Perhaps because John was so young, innocent, virginal, and pure Jesus loved him in a special way. Or perhaps it was because He knew that John would be the only apostle who would stand by His Mother at the foot of the cross. Could it be because John’s Gospel would be the one that spoke of Christ in an ethereal way, uncommon to the other Evangelists?
John the Apostle, also called John the Evangelist, was born around AD 15. Although some claim he came from noble birth, others point to the fact that he was the son of a fisherman, suggesting that he probably had little education and certainly not much wealth.
John first appears in the New Testament when he was called by Christ to be His apostle (Mark 1:19 and Luke 5:10).
Not long after the calling of the apostles, Christ called John and his brother, James, Boanerges or Sons of Thunder (Mark 3:17). No reason has been given for this title, but many saints of the early Church remark on their fearless proclamation of the Gospel fearing God, yet having no fear of men. Also they were the men who boldly asked Christ to place them at His right and left hand when He entered His Kingdom: Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you” (Mark 10:35) Imagine such bold assertion! No wonder the other apostles were indignant (Mark 10:41).
Several times Jesus went where He invited only the Apostles Peter, James, and John, such as the time when Jairus, the synagogue official, approached Jesus and asked Him to come and save his daughter. Before He went to the man’s house, He was delayed by the woman with the flow of blood. Meanwhile, some people came from the official’s home to tell him his daughter had died.
Jesus insisted that she was sleeping, went to his home, and when He went inside, He only allowed Peter, James, and John to accompany Him (Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:40-56). After he cured the young girl, He instructed those present to tell no one.
In another episode, John complained indignantly to Jesus that someone was casting out devils in His name even though the apostles tried to stop him. He was upset that the person would not obey their admonitions to stop what he was doing. John’s youth, zeal, and love of Jesus led John to seek all for the greater glory of Jesus (Mark 9:38, Luke 9:49). St. Mark relates the destruction of Jerusalem, followed by a private conversation with Peter, James, John, and Andrew. After the apostles praised the glorious stones and buildings of the temple, Jesus told them of the coming destruction of Jerusalem. Then He told the four apostles of the coming persecution of the Church and how they would be dragged before councils and kings for their faith. “But speak whatever is given to you in that hour. For it is not you who are speaking, but the Holy Spirit” (Mark 13:11).
Once again the three apostles were receiving special formation from Christ for their lives of ministry. The process continued when they were taken up to the mountain of the Transfiguration where Christ met with Moses and Elijah and became more radiant than the sun. While no Gospel refers to the exact mountain, there is a Catholic Church built on Mt. Tabor in honor of the Transfiguration. Peter was the spokesman, while John was silent.
When the time had come for our Lord to go to Jerusalem for His Passion and Death, He first headed toward Samaria. However, when He sent apostles ahead of Him to prepare Samaria for His arrival, the townspeople rejected Him. James and John expressed their anger and asked Jesus, “Lord, wilt Thou that we bid fire come down from heaven and consume them?” Thus we again see the Sons of Thunder and their zeal for Jesus’ work.
Our Lord rebuked them, saying, “You do not know of what manner of spirit you are; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (Luke 9:55-56).
Then He sent Peter and John to prepare the Passover meal, telling them to follow the man carrying a pitcher of water and whom they should ask for the Upper Room. As they were eating their supper, Jesus told of His coming betrayal. It was John, as he reclined with Jesus at table, whom Peter asked to find out who would betray Christ.
On the night of Christ’s betrayal, John — again with Peter and James — was with our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane. Again, Peter played a major role when Jesus was betrayed, while John was silent. The three failed to keep watch with Jesus.
We also know that John was the only apostle who followed Jesus into the home of the high priest — thus demonstrating that the servants of the high priest knew John. It was John who managed to get Peter in as well, which set the stage for Peter’s denial.
Only John, the disciple Jesus whom loved, stood at the foot of the cross. It was to John that Jesus entrusted the care of His Mother, and to His Mother that Jesus entrusted John, who represented the Catholic Church.
Just before Jesus ascended to Heaven and told Peter to feed His sheep, Peter asked Jesus about John, wondering why our Lord did not give the place of prominence to him, but Jesus told him it was not Peter’s concern.
After Pentecost there are more scenes with Peter and John such as when Peter cured the beggar and again when they went to Samaria. After John had asked Jesus to call down fire on them because of their rejection of Jesus, he now went there with Peter, having learned they accepted Christ’s teaching.
John lived many years and was the only apostle not to suffer martyrdom. He took care of Mary, loving her as he did Jesus. The last apostle to enter eternity, John died sometime after AD 98.
John’s writings are more spiritual than those of the other three Gospel writers. In his Gospel he wrote extensively on the Word, beginning his Gospel by describing Jesus as the Light of the World. He largely focused on the Lord’s discourses, recording fewer miracles than did the other Gospel authors. The Last Discourse, covering so much of Christ’s teaching, is only found in John’s Gospel. He closed His Gospel by saying that there were many other things that Jesus did, but, if all were written down, “not even the world itself, I think, could hold the books that would have to be written” (John 21:25).
These last words of his Gospel truly convey his love and his zeal for the Son of Man who was also the Son of God. His feast is celebrated on December 27.

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(Carole Breslin home-schooled her four daughters and served as treasurer of the Michigan Catholic Home Educators for eight years. For over ten years, she was national coordinator for the Marian Catechists, founded by Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.)

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