Who were the closest persons to Our Lord during his life on earth? Undoubtedly his Mother was the very closest both because of her relationship to him and because she remained alive all during his earthly life and even after it. Then, Saint Joseph his guardian with whom he lived in the intimacy of the Holy Family for at least twelve years. Then, I believe the next one would be Saint John the Apostle and Evangelist. John was the son of Zebedee and his wife Salome; they were Galileans, members of the fishermen’s community. Zebedee and at least two of his sons, John and James were also fishermen. That was true also of Saints Peter and his brother, Andrew. It is interesting that at least four of the twelve apostles were fishermen, by the very deliberate choice of Our Lord.
Why do I believe that John was so close to Our Lord? For one thing, he was one of the three picked by Our Lord to witness at least two events to which the other ten were not invited: the Transfiguration on the high mountain in Galilee, and then the agony in the garden. More than that, only John had the courage and the devotion to Our Lord to brave the crowd of Jesus’s enemies and to stand at the foot of the cross and keep watch while Jesus died. And then, perhaps the most persuasive proof of Our Lord’s special love for John and John’s for him: as Our Lord was dying on the cross, he entrusted his holy mother into the care of John. What greater show of esteem could Our Lord have given to John than to entrust his immaculate mother to John’s care, and allow John to take his place and become Mary’s son for the rest of her life on earth?
Within our own time, a new shrine has emerged as very popular and very fervent. It is, of all places, in the Muslim nation of Turkey. Just recently, the eyes of millions of pilgrims and travelers have begun to look to the ruins of the ancient Christian city of Ephesus, to the Christians of which Saint Paul wrote his beautiful “Letter to the Ephesians.” The ruins of that city are interesting enough in their own right, but more than that, just outside the ancient city there is a tall hill crowned with a very nice grove of trees that provides beauty and cooling shade in that hot area. And among the trees, there is a small stone house, the reconstruction of a much older building on those same foundations. When the Ottoman Turks began to allow westerners to go there, the Christian visitors discovered that that little shrine had been there for centuries, frequented and maintained by the handful of Christians who managed to eke out a life in that part of the world so opposed to the Church. And now that Turkey is officially non-religious, I have observed dozens of tourist busses lined up near the little house of Our Lady to visit this place to which Saint John very possibly brought the Mother of Jesus after Our Lord’s ascension into heaven. It is likely that from there, her immaculate body was assumed into heaven. Be that as it may, we have the Scriptural assurance that beginning at the moment of Our Lord’s death, “the disciple took her into his home.” What sort of person is this Saint John whom we celebrate on December 27, whom Our Lord considered worthy to become the caregiver of his own most holy mother? Let us think of this today on the feast of the son of Salome, and the adoptive son of Mary. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This Message was composed some years ago.