An overview of the life of the Beloved Disciple. Who was St. John? The son of Zebedee, the brother of James the Greater, the caretaker of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the theologian and priest and prophet, the Evangelist.
Handout is below the audio recording.
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Catholic Commentary on the Gospel of St John
Following the great saints and Catholic theologians
Session 2 – Who was St. John the Evangelist?
Who was St. John? He is the brother of James the Greater. He is also the son Zebedee and Salome, making him the nephew of St. James the Less and Jude Thaddeus, and the grandson of St. Cleophas (Alphaeus). This makes him to be a distant relative of Jesus, since he is the son of the Lord’s cousin Salome. All this is the general consensus of the Fathers and great saints.
St. John suffered an interior martyrdom greater than all the other Apostles:
Fr. Cornelius a’ Lapide writes of the “martyrdom” of St. John – (cf. Mark 10:35-40, especially verses 38-39, “And Jesus said to them: You know not what you ask. Can you drink of the chalice that I drink of: or be baptized with the baptism wherewith I am baptized? But they said to him: We can. And Jesus saith to them: You shall indeed drink of the chalice that I drink of: and with the baptism wherewith I am baptized, you shall be baptized.”)
“S. John also drank of this cup when he was plunged by Domitian, at Rome, before the Latin Gate, into a cauldron of boiling oil, and came forth renewed in strength; so that by a new miracle he was a martyr by living rather by dying.
“Again, not only Prochorus, S. John’s disciple, in his Life of S. John (the truth of which is rightly suspected by Baronius), but also S. Isidore declares that S. John really drank the cup of poison, but that he also drank it without harm; whence also he is generally represented in pictures holding a cup. And, lastly, we may say that the whole life of S. John was a continual martyrdom, for he lived a very long time after all the Apostles, to the year of our Lord 101; and this long absence from Christ, his beloved—after Whom he was continually longing—was a lengthened martyrdom to him, as it was also to the Blessed Virgin, to whom he had been given as a son by Christ on the Cross.
“Again, S. John underwent a special martyrdom while he stood with the Blessed Virgin by the Cross on Mount Calvary, and beheld Christ—his Life, Whom he loved more than his own life—suffering the bitter pains of the Cross for three hours.”
Again, Fr. Cornelius a Lapide writes of the virtues of St. John:
“S. John alone was counted worthy to win the laurels of all saints. For he is in very deed a theologian, or rather the prince of theologians. The same is an apostle, a prophet and an evangelist. The same is a priest, a bishop, a high priest, a virgin, and a martyr. That S. John always remained a virgin is asserted by all the ancient writers, expressly by Tertullian (Lib. de monogam.) and S. Jerome (Lib. 1 contra. Jovin.). To him therefore as a virgin Christ from His cross commended His Virgin Mother. For “blessed are the clean in heart, for they shall see God,” as the Truth Itself declares.
“The Only Begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, made known to this His most chaste and beloved friend, who reclined upon His breast, the hidden things and sacraments of the Divinity, which had been kept-secret from the foundation of the world. John hath declared the same to us, as a son of thunder, thundering and lightening the whole world with the Deity of the Word. As with a flaming thunderbolt “he hath given shine to the world;” and with the fire of love he hath inflamed it. Let that speech of Christ, His longest and His last, bear witness, which He made after supper (S. John xiii. &c.), which breathes of nothing but the ardour of Divine love.”
Outline of the Life of St John:
1. During the life of Christ
a. Disciple of St. John the Baptist
b. Follows the Lord together with St Andrew
c. After a year and an half, called to total discipleship with Jesus (from the Sea)
d. Remains closest to Jesus through his whole ministry.
e. Is seen active with Peter after Pentecost, and is a pillar of the early Church.
2. Later years.
a. St John cared for Mary in Ephesus for 15 years after the Ascension.
b. St. John suffered much persecution, and attempts on his life (the poisoned chalice)
c. He writes the three Letters.
d. Domitian attempts to kill him in boiling oil at the Latin Gate in Rome (about AD 95)
e. St. John is banished to Patmos where he writes the Book of Revelations
f. Returning to Ephesus, he writes the Gospel about AD 100, and dies shortly after.