This past Saturday, we celebrated in our liturgy the feast of Saint John the Apostle, the Beloved Disciple of the Lord, as he calls himself in his gospel. Because he is so important in the history of our Christian community, let us just review the more salient features of his life and ministry to remind ourselves of what we know about him and of his role in the formation of the Church.
He was a fisherman, the son of another fisherman named Zebedee and a woman by the name of Salome. He was the brother of James, also chosen by Jesus to be an apostle.
He is first heard of, listening to the preaching of Saint John the Baptist by the river Jordan down in Judea. When John the Baptist points out Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” this St. John follows Jesus and gets to know him, and to love him.
Back at his fishing on the lake of Galilee, John hears the divine invitation addressed to him and his brother James, “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”
They, along with two other brothers who were fishermen on that same lake and therefore undoubtedly known to one another — Simon Peter and Andrew, became the intimate companions of Jesus.
From his many followers, Jesus chose twelve to be very special and to accompany him for the entire duration of his public life. John was one of these.
On three occasions that we know of, Our Lord chose three of the twelve to witness special moments in his life. One was the raising of the little daughter of Jairus from the dead. One was the glorious moment of the Transfiguration of Jesus. And the other was the agony of Jesus deep in the garden of Gethsemani, deep in grief, fear, and depression, the night before Jesus died.
John was the only one of the twelve mentioned as being at the foot of the cross the next day when Our Lord died so horribly. But his reward for being there together with the Mother of Jesus was that he was given the precious responsibility of being her companion and custodian for the rest of her life on earth.
John exercised his priesthood and episcopacy probably in the city of Ephesus, in Asia Minor — what is now western Turkey. It was probably there that he and Our Lady lived until her assumption into heaven.
John wrote the fourth gospel, so different from the other three that is usually put into a class by itself. He also wrote three letters which are included in the New Testament, and it is believed that he wrote, or at least composed, the book of Revelation — the last book of the New Testament.
Thus we see the closeness that he enjoyed with Our Divine Lord and his Immaculate Mother, and his incomparable stature within the life of the early church. And we see what an appropriate person he is to invoke as our intercessor and friend in heaven, and our model and ideal in our own relationship with Jesus and Mary. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.