December 27 is the feast day of St. John the Evangelist. He is the patron of writers, editors, and publishers. This honor is due to his writing of the fourth gospel, three epistles and the Book of Revelations.
John was the son of Zebedee. He and his brother James the Greater were called by Jesus to follow him as his disciples. James and John were known as the “sons of thunder”.
John is referred to as the “beloved disciple”. At the Last Supper, it is John who sat next to Jesus. He is the only apostle not to die a martyr’s death.
In the gospels, John with Peter and James were the only witnesses to Jesus raising of the daughter of Jairus. (Luke 8.40) They were also at the transfiguration and the Agony in the Garden. Jesus sent only John and Peter into the city for the preparation of the final Passover meat. ( Last Supper).
The writings of John have been very important in the life of the church. It was the last gospel written. John did not focus on the parables of Jesus. He focused on the divinity of Jesus and the major themes of Jesus teaching. The first chapter of John especially focuses on the divinity of Jesus.
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1.1) The gospel of John contains the “I am” sayings of Jesus. These sayings teach us a a great deal about Jesus. They are:
- I am the bread of life (6.35)
- I am the light of the world (8.12)
- I am the gate for the sheep (10.7)
- I am the good shepherd (10.11)
- I am the way, and the truth, and the life (14.6)
- I am the vine, you are the branches (15.5)
Reflecting on these gospel readings can help us to know Jesus in a much deeper way. John also shares with us his vision of the “end times” in the Book of Revelation. This book is probably the most misunderstood book in the bible. One of the things it teaches is the Christian belief that good will be victorious over evil. The book of Revelation also gives us the image of Jesus as “the Lamb of God”.
St. John was the only apostle who did not flee during the death of Jesus. He stood courageously at the foot of the cross with Mary and the other women. It is during the crucifixion that Jesus says, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple. “Here is your mother.“ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. (John 19.26) This is why Catholics consider Mary to be their spiritual mother.
The home John and Mary lived in is believed to be in Ephesus. After its discovery, it became a shrine for pilgrims. Tradition states that Joseph had died earlier in the life of Jesus. John lived primarily in Jerusalem and Ephesus after the crucifixion. He founded churches in Asia Minor.
Popular legend tells us Roman officers attempted to poison him. However, when John blessed the chalice the poison was turned into a snake. He was then ordered cast into boiling oil but because he was uninjured he was banished to the island of Patnos for a year. He lived to an old age, dying around the year 100.
Prayer to St. John the Evangelist
Shed upon your Church, O Lord, the brightness of your light, that we, being illuminated by the teaching of your apostle and evangelist John, may walk in the light of your truth, that at length we may attain to the fullness of eternal life, through Jesus Christ Our Lord, who lives and reigns with your and the Holy Spirit one God for ever and ever. Amen