Saturday, December 27, 2008

Feast of St John the Evangelist

John 21: 20-24.
Peter turning about, saw that disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also leaned on his breast at supper and said: Lord, who is he that shall betray thee? Him therefore when Peter had seen, he saith to Jesus: Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith to him: So I will have him to remain till I come, what is it to thee? Follow thou me. This saying therefore went abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die. And Jesus did not say to him: He should not die; but: So I will have him to remain till I come, what is it to thee? This is that disciple who giveth testimony of these things and hath written these things: and we know that his testimony is true.

Tradition says that St John the Evangelist was one of Christ's original twelve apostles; the only one to live into old age; and not martyred for his faith. He is said to have lived and been buried in Ephesus. While on exile to Patmos he wrote the Book of Revelation, however, some scholars attributes the authorship to John of Patmos or John the Presbyter.

John was the brother of James the Greater and in the Scriptures, the two brothers are often called after their father "the sons of Zebedee" and Christ gave them the title of Boanerges, or "sons of thunder" (Mark 3:17). Originally they were fishermen and with their father fished in the Lake of Genesareth. For a time they became disciples of John the Baptist, and were called by Christ, together with Peter and Andrew, to become His disciples (John 1:35-42) and remained for some time with Jesus (John 2:12,22; 4:2,8,27). After the second return from Judea, John and his companions went back to their original trade until they were called again by Christ to definitive discipleship (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20). John, Peter, James witnessed the raising of Jairus's daughter (Mark 5:37), of the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1), and of the Agony in Gethsemani (Matthew 26:37). John and Peter were sent by Jesus into the city to make the preparation for the Last Supper (Luke 22:8) and at the Supper John's place was next to Christ on Whose breast he leaned (John 13:23, 25). John was also that "other disciple" who with Peter followed Christ after the arrest into the palace of the high-priest, Anas (John 18:15). John alone remained near his beloved Master at the foot of the Cross on Calvary with the Mother of Jesus and the pious women. After crucifixion, John took Mary into his care as the last legacy of Christ (John 19:25-27). After the Resurrection, together with Peter, John were the first of the disciples to hasten to the grave and the first to believe that Christ had truly risen (John 20:2-10). When later Christ appeared at the Lake of Genesareth John was also the first of the seven disciples present who recognized his Master standing on the shore (John 21:7). The Fourth Evangelist has shown us most clearly how close he always stood to his Lord and Master by the title with which he is accustomed to indicate himself without giving his name: "the disciple whom Jesus loved". After Christ's Ascension and the Descent of the Holy Spirit, John took, together with Peter, a prominent part in the founding and guidance of the Church. We see him in the company of Peter at the healing of the lame man in the Temple (Acts 3:1) and with Peter he is also thrown into prison (Acts 4:3).

John with the other Apostles remained some twelve years in Palestine until the persecution of Herod Agrippa which led to the scattering of the Apostles through the various provinces of the Roman Empire (Acts 12:1-17). Possibly, at that time, John went for the first time to Asia Minor and exercised his Apostolic office in various provinces there. He returned with the other disciples to Jerusalem for the Apostolic Council (about A.D. 51). St. Paul in opposing his enemies in Galatia names John explicitly along with Peter and James the Just as a "pillar of the Church", and refers to the recognition which his Apostolic preaching of a Gospel free from the law received from these three, the most prominent men of the old Mother-Church at Jerusalem (Galatians 2:9). When Paul came again to Jerusalem (Acts 18:22; 21:17) he seems no longer to have met John there who may already left the Palestine. Both the Epistles of John and the Apocalypse, presuppose that their author, John, eyewitnessed the life and work of Christ (1 John 1:1-5; 4:14), that he had lived for a long time in Asia Minor, that he was thoroughly acquainted with the conditions existing in the various Christian communities there, and that he had a position of authority recognized by all Christian communities as leader of this part of the Church. Moreover, the Apocalypse tells us that its author was on the island of Patmos "for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus", when he was honoured with the heavenly Revelation contained in the Apocalypse (Revelation 1:9).

Picture is 'St John at Patmos' by Hieronimus Bosch