we have seen it and testify to it
and proclaim to you the eternal life
that was with the Father and was made visible to us—
what we have seen and heard
we proclaim now to you,
so that you too may have fellowship with us
Today the Church celebrates the Feast of St. John, apostle and evangelist.
Born in Bethsaida, John was called while mending his nets to follow Jesus. He became the beloved disciple of Jesus. He wrote the fourth Gospel, three Epistles and Revelation.
The beginning of John’s gospel tells us of the pre-existence of the Word, who by His Incarnation became the light of the world and the life of our souls. His focus on the divinity of Christ and His fraternal love for us are greatly comforting. John knew that Jesus is God among us and that He came with deep love for us, to redeem us and release us from fear and death.
John, with James, his brother, and Simon Peter, was one of the witnesses of the Transfiguration. At the Last Supper, John leaned on the Jesus’ breast. At the foot of the cross, Jesus entrusted His Mother to John’s care. St. John is known to us as “the beloved disciple.” Jesus showed particular instances of kindness and affection toward St. John above all the rest. He was the only one of the Apostles who did not forsake Jesus in the hour of His Passion and Death.
St. John remained in Jerusalem for a long time, later going on to Ephesus, where he founded Churches.
St. John was the only apostle who did not undergo martyrdom. The emperors tried to kill him many times. John was brought to Rome and was cast into a caldron of boiling oil by order of Emperor Domitian. He was miraculously preserved unhurt. One of the symbols used to represent St. John is a chalice and serpent (the cup of sorrow foretold by Jesus). It is said that the emperors tried to poison John by giving him a chalice filled with poisoned wine. He prayed over the cup and serpents fell out. He drank the wine unharmed. That is why, on this day, we bless wine in his honor. With all attempts at killing him failing, the emperor exiled John to the island of Patmos.
In his extreme old age he continued to visit the Churches of Asia. St. Jerome relates that when age and weakness grew upon him so that he was no longer able to preach to the people, he would be carried to the assembly of the faithful by his disciples, with great difficulty; and every time said to his flock only these words: “My dear children, love one another.”
St. John died in peace at Ephesus in the hundredth year of the Christian era, or the sixty-sixth from the crucifixion of Christ. St. John would have been about ninety-four years old.
The key thing for us to contemplate is the fact that wine, mixed with water, becomes for us the blood of Christ in the Eucharist. In the Eucharist we engage in an act of “remembrance.” Remembrance, as we often preach, is not a mere memory of what Jesus did at the last supper, but a real and living unity with Jesus’ divine role as our redeemer. We proclaim that we are not just remembering, but in the Eucharist are indeed present at every moment of Jesus’ Divine life. It is why the Holy Mass is the key and most essential celebration we engage in as Christians. We, in that moment, are really present in Jesus life, at the last supper, in His death, resurrection, ascension, and at His return in glory; all in that holy moment. In the Eucharist we live in Jesus and Jesus lives in us. In communion we all receive Him and we are given the grace to live in Him as He lives in us.
St. John knew this. He was completely connected to Jesus, not just because he lived with Him and followed Him throughout His ministry in the cities and countryside of Israel. He was really part of Jesus, and Jesus was in Him, not just as a memory but in reality. John lived the Eucharistic reality of Jesus fully present. When St. John tells us: “My dear children, love one another” he is asking us to live in the reality of Jesus past, present, and future. In partaking of the Eucharist at communion we receive the full reality of Jesus who is in the world and will come again to fulfill all His promises to us. This is the Christian life of love we must have, a life that is eternal.
While John underwent many tortures and exile he never feared. Death to him was nothing. He remained steadfast, even as Jesus was dying on the cross as well as amid all the tortures that would visit him later in life. He knew that his life was not just for the here and now, but for all eternity. We know that too. Like John, nothing can or should separate us from the love of God – Jesus living in us. John expectantly knew that Jesus would return. He lived that reality. Jesus, the eternal Word, our Lord and God, has come and will come again casting out all fear. To John and to us death is no more. Only love and the promise of eternal life in Jesus matter.