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The Feast Day of Saint John the Apostle

 Saint John the Apostle

 

 

[1] In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. [2] The same was in the beginning with God. [3] All things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made. [4] In him was life, and the life was the light of men. [5] And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

John 1: 1-5

Saint John, the Apostle whom Christ loved, was the youngest of the Apostles.  Born perhaps around 6-15 AD he and his brother James, sons of Zebedee and Salome, were fishermen on the Sea of Galilee.  Called by Christ to follow Him, they were nicknamed by Him Boanerges, sons of thunder, perhaps because of their asking Christ to call down lightning on those who did not follow Him, or perhaps a playful jab at the disposition of old Zebedee.

The two brothers were ambitious, asking Christ to allow them to sit by His side.  He promised them only that they would drink from the cup He drank and be baptized in His Baptism.  John’s brother James became the first of the Apostles to die a martyr’s death.

John far outlived all the other apostles, dying in exile on Patmos circa 100 AD.  He witnessed the small defeated movement of the followers of Jesus after the Crucifixion swell into a mighty Church sweeping into every corner of the Roman Empire and beyond.  He was the last living link to Christ and he set down what he remembered in that theological masterpiece, the Gospel of John.  The other three Gospels give us Christ in unforgettable prose, the Gospel of John gives us Christ in lambent almost poetry, that has illuminated the humanity and the divinity of Christ  for countless Christians down through the long ages.  Through disciples like Saint Ignatius and Saint Polycarp he passed on to Christians who had never heard Christ the pure teaching of Christ that he had heard, and the love of Christ that burned within him.

In John 21: 22 Peter receives a very mild rebuke from Christ when Peter wonders if John is to tarry until Christ comes again:  “What is that to thee, follow thou me!”  There is an old legend that Saint John went into his tomb still living, perhaps to remain there miraculously alive until the Second Coming.  In this legend there is a boulder of truth.  The Gospel of John, more than any other single document, has helped keep alive in Christians something of the passion and the love of Christ that amazed the Apostles.  In that Gospel, John does remain alive here on the Earth, as he prepares each Christian who reads it to follow the same Christ that he followed down the dusty trails of Judaea so long ago. 

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.

40 Comments

  1. The darkness (all around us) still, today, does not comprehend it.

    Still, today, the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has (will) never put it out.

  2. If only some in the darkness who serve to suffocate the Gospel(s) because these are in the Bible, could fast forward to other revelations for consideration.

    The scientific verifications of the impressions in the cloth from the grave and from the tilma worn by Juan Diego, the tree that some in Tepeyac (sp?) found intact after being on fire holding within a statue of our Lady of Guadeloupe, the living matter found in miracles of the Eucharist, the sun ‘dancing’ in Fatima for thousands to see, and the inexplicable symmetry and beauty of nature and masterpieces of art, all serving to illuminate the Gospel(s), could be among those considerations.

  3. I consider Chapter 6 of John’s gospel one of the most powerful of all the writings of the evangelists. His dissertation on the Eucharist is a stumbling block for all those who do not acclaim the Real Presence, yet still claim to follow the Bible.

    Here in NZ, we claim our apostolic succession from St. John. In 1836 (?) Bishop Pompallier, a French bishop from Lyons brought the Faith to NZ. St. Irenaus was the first bishop of Lyon, who was given the Faith by St. Polycarp, who was a student of St. John, and Pompallier is in that apostolic succession.

  4. Don: It is true John was in that link–he was in a pivotal position to pass some things along. As far as Jesus’ words go, I think he was speaking figuratively. The stumblingblock for his audience was that Jesus was the Christ, not that they thought they would have to consume his literal flesh and blood. Jesus said of the passover bread/wine that it was his body/blood, even though he was still in their midst. I find the more literal thesis too problematic for acceptance. We know, in fact, that for early followers, the ritual was within the context of a meal.

  5. Jon.
    With respect, I find it problematic that many protestants take the whole bible literally – except for Ch. 6 of John’s gospel. I am compelled to ask , why? I believe that it comes out of the reformation where Luther denied that the Mass was a sacrifice – and this developed by Calvin et al.

    Jesus told them the first time, ” I am the bread which has come down from heaven.”
    The Jews argued, but this is the carpenter’s son.
    Again, Jesus says, ” Anyone who eats this bread will live forever, and the bread that I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
    Again the Jews started argueing and said, “How can this man give his flesh to eat?”

    Jesus then restates and reinforces his previous statements,”If you do not eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood, you will not have life in you;…….for my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink…………..”
    The Jews then started walking away – “This is a hard teaching – this is intolerable language, how can anyone accept it?”
    Jesus did not back off – in Ch6:v66 ( The 666) many disciples turned away and did not walk anymore with him.
    He then turns to his apostles,” Will you too, walk away?” and then Peter’s Spirit filled response. “To whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
    If Jesus did not mean what he said to be literally understood, He would have modified and explained further. He did not.

    AS proof of this, there are very many Eucharistic miracles – from the Miracle of Lanciano in the 8th century, right through to this day. How anyone does not believe in the real and substantial Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist I find bemusing and astonishing.

  6. The Eucharist IS THE SOURCE AND SUMMIT OF OUR CATHOLIC FAITH,how such THE Greatest Gift the Lord left us to Receive Him .Body,Blood ,Soul and Divinity, everyday as long as we are in a of grace. As Bishop Fulton Sheen stated on occasion ,” There are probably less people than what one can count on his or her hands.if they would take the time to read the history and tradition of the Catholic Faith, would not convert to the church that dates firmly and exclusively to Jesus Christ “

  7. Don the Kiwi

    St Irenaeus was the second bishop of Lyon, the first being St Pothinus (87-177 AD). Indeed, St Irenaeus, then a priest was sent with a letter from St Pothinus, who was awaiting martyrdom with 47 companions, to Pope Elutherius

    The cathedral has a complete list of its bishops and archbishops, just inside the South porch.

  8. Don, Luther worked out a doctrine of the Eucharist that wasn’t very different from the Roman Catholic one. He explained it within a similar scholastic framework. To this day, traditional Lutherans approach the Eucharist in a way that is similar to Roman Catholics. The real difference I see came with Calvin’s interpretation. Calvin believed that the Lord’s Supper was a means of grace—sacramental, in other words, but not in terms of body and blood. He spoke more in terms of a spiritual presence. He argued that since Christ was bodily assumed into heaven, the Holy Spirit is the presence of God on earth. Therefore, when Christians gather together, they are the temple of the Holy Spirit and St. Paul of course referred to us as the ‘body of Christ.’
    Once again, it is difficult for me to believe that the issue people had with Jesus words relates to the Eucharist. I would consider this enormously anachronistic. Before the Passover meal Jesus had with his disciples, he led a ministry. He was talkin to these people, communicating something that was very much a stumblignblock: that he was indeed the Christ, the Messiah of GOd, sent into the world to redeem sinners. They could not swallow that. He’s redirecting them from physical things to spiritual things, tellinmg them they must turn to him. To whom shall we go? We know the answer, obviously. They did not.

  9. Once again, it is difficult for me to believe that the issue people had with Jesus words relates to the Eucharist. I would consider this enormously anachronistic.

    Hard for it to be anachronistic when the Gospel of John is late first century, isn’t it? And the repetition for emphasis:

    “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” (v 34)
    “I am the bread of life.” (v 48)

    “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever;and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” (v 51)

    “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” (vv 53-56)
    Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds[!] on me will have life because of me. (v 57)

    That’s an awful lot of cannibalism for the problem to be simply the rejection of Jesus’s Christhood, don’t you think?

    It seems to me that Saint John pretty clearly understood the Master to be teaching both the Real Presence and the centrality of the Eucharist.

    And not that this will count for much, but it’s taken me nearly twenty years to get to the point of accepting the truth.

  10. Justin Martyr in his First Apology, c. 155-157 AD, describes the Eucharist in terms that are completely Catholic:

    “And this food is called among us Εὐχαριστία [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, “This do in remembrance of Me, (Luke 22:19) this is My body;” and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, “This is My blood;” and gave it to them alone. Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated, you either know or can learn.”

  11. One might add the common pagan charge of “Thyestean banquets,” (cannibalism) which occur at the end of the first century.

  12. “One might add the common pagan charge of “Thyestean banquets,” (cannibalism) which occur at the end of the first century.”
    In the Eucharist, Jesus gives us His Body and Blood as food and drink. In cannibalism the victim is murdered and consumed that his virtues may be taken against his will.
    Jesus said: “I lay down my life and I take it up again. No one takes my life from me.”

  13. Mary de Voe

    Of course, but the charge would not have been made, had the pagans not heard some rumours of the Christian belief in the Real Presence and the Eucharistic Banquet – It was not cut from whole cloth.

    It does call to mind a remark of Miss Anscombe’s:-

    “We Christians are so much accustomed to the idea of holy communion that we tend not to notice how mysterious an idea it is. There is the now old dispute between Catholics and Protestants whether we eat what only symbolizes, or really is, the flesh of the saviour when we eat the bread consecrated in the Eucharist; drink his blood only symbolically or really. Because of this dispute, it appeared as if only the Catholic belief were extravagant – the Protestants having the perfectly reasonable procedure of symbolically eating Christ’s flesh and drinking his blood! The staggering strangeness of doing such a thing even only symbolically slipped out of notice in the disputes about transubstantiation”

  14. Thanks MPS like most of you I’ve been ’round this mulberry bush many times, but I had never heard this quote nor thought of this absurdity “the Protestants having the perfectly reasonable procedure of symbolically eating Christ’s flesh and drinking his blood! The staggering strangeness of doing such a thing even only symbolically…”

  15. Michael Paterson-Seymour and Anzlyne” I am privileged to answer both of your comments. “This is my body which is given for you”. Christ does not lie. So there it is: the Real Presence. This truth is rejected by the Protestants along with more of Jesus Christ’s truths: the Apostolic Succession, the Virgin birth, the Immaculate Conception. If St. Joseph was not a virgin, St Joseph would not have heard the voice of God in the angelic message. Innocence and virginity are the norm of heaven. That is why Jesus gave us the Sacrament of Penance.
    The Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ here and now and in eternity. The Real Presence brought down onto the altar in transubstantiation is indivisible. When Jesus Christ’s body and blood died on the cross, Jesus Christ’s soul and divinity descended into the lower regions, where in acknowledgment of the devil’s free will to reject God, Jesus came, but was not allowed to be in hell. Literally rejected. Christ’s soul and divinity, infinite soul and divinity, resurrected Christ’s dead body and blood.
    When a human being receives Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist, the man receives the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ, making us one with Jesus; Jesus living within us as St Paul said: “Not I, but Christ lives in me”
    Were the Holy Eucharist only a symbol, there would be no “In persona Christi”, no “alter Christi”. Man would only be a symbol of a man and a symbol of Jesus Christ. Being only what he imagines himself to be and not real, rather than being who he really is: a human being composed of body and soul, made in the image of God, (not ever made in the image of man), brothers of Christ and sons and daughters of God, through the sacrifice of Jesus, through the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus, in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the Real Presence.
    Now apply this reasoning to secular humanism and atheism making man over into the state because there is no Soul of Christ in them, only the symbol for reality, a counterfeit sovereignty of person, citizen, nation, made in the image of man and know the tragedy of despair and hopelessness. The government is trying to remedy despair and hopelessness with tax dollars and promises and its failure without Divine Providence is obvious. Let us go back to our founding principles. Give us God.

  16. I think maybe I was misunderstood
    I just left noon mass having received the totality of Christ for Whom I am grateful

  17. The problem iwth the idea of literal body and blood, as Calvin pointed out, is that Christ is in heaven and the Holy Spirit on earth, now, in His ministry. So theologically speaking, the gathering itself is the body of Christ, as St. Paul correctly taught.

  18. In rejecting the Real Presence of Jesus Christ, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist, and choosing to believe in Jesus as a “symbol” for the Supreme Sovereign Being, some join those in hell who have rejected the Truth and God.
    Jon: “the gathering itself is the body of Christ,”
    Only if the gathering accepts and believes Jesus Christ to be the Real Presence, in the Holy Eucharist and after reception of Holy Communion in their own body. We offer up our body with the Body of Christ at the Offertory of the Mass (our body is real, too, because of the reality of Christ’s Body).
    Anzlyne: The mystery of the Holy Eucharist is indeed our greatest blessing and love.

  19. Jon: When Henry VIII, Calvin, Luther et al. chose to separate themselves from the Catholic Church in Rome in the Protestant revolt, they self-excommunicated themselves, latae sententiae, and all their followers. They exiled themselves and renounced the Sacraments. Without the sacrament of the Holy Orders, they have no priests and bishops to confect the Real Presence. Without the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, they have only a symbol of what their hearts and souls really want and need, the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ.
    I cannot change their free will act. I can only pray for them and you.
    In addition, it would be useless to blame the Catholic Church, for only they, who have self- excommunicated themselves, can change their minds and enter back into the church of their own free will.
    No Person can be a symbol, a that, or a which, or a thing. A person can only be a WHO. And Jon, you are correct in saying that in the Blessed Sacrament on the altar, all three Persons in the Triune God are Present. It is called circumcession. Where is one Person, there are all three persons of God. May almighty God bless you and keep you.

  20. “He gives us his body,” so Augustine wrote, “to make us into his body.” This brings out how the sacrament symbolizes and effects the unity of the people who join together to celebrate the Eucharist and to receive communion

    St. John Damascene says the same: “Because we partake of a single bread, we all become a single body of Christ, a single blood, and members one of another, being made of one body with Christ.”

  21. Michael Paterson-Seymour: “the people who join together to celebrate the Eucharist and to receive communion.” are the Catholic Church, with real Sacrament and the Real Presence.
    ““Because we partake of a single bread, we all become a single body of Christ, a single blood, and members one of another, being made of one body with Christ.”” unless we choose to opt out of the Real Presence, the Real Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ WHO is the true bread from heaven. Jesus Christ cannot abide in a symbol, not in any symbol. Jesus Christ said: “This is my Body.” In persona Christi, through the priest who acts in persona Christi through the Sacrament of Holy Orders in the Catholic Church.

  22. How can Christ be said to be literally present in the Lord’s Supper when he has ascended to the Father’s right hand? The Holy Spirit, the Comforter, has been sent. The people of GOd are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and when we gather together the Holy Spirit is of course present. When we eat the bread and drink the cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until he returns. This is a memorial supper, then. It is something we do to commemorate Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, and his promise to return.
    I see no reason to accept the Roman Catholic narrative that equates Rome with the true church. I believe that the invisible church represents all those who believe on God in faith at all times and everywhere. The visible church and the invisible church overlap, but they do not equate wtih one another. Once the apostles died, the apostolic gift ended. No more apostles existed. So anyone coming after is obliged to continue in the apostles’ teaching. But there is no ‘apostolic succession’ in the strict sense in whcih it is udnerstood by Rome.
    It is true that we offer up ourselves, our souls and bodies, as sacrifices to God which is our reasonable service. We do not, however, offer up Christ who was once offered for all time. It is an unrepeatable event.
    There is no excommunication in the sense in which you speak. Excommunication results when someone has committed heresy or lived so horribly as to require discipline. They are put out of the church. This is hopefully temporary adn with a vivew to restoration. You speak of sacramens and taht of holy orders. That is part of the Roman church’s apparatus. That is the system they developed. All this constitutes very baroque and quite unnecessary development.
    I can only think that by returning to Scripture we can find our way back to the simplicity of the gospel and the traditions of those apostles whom we seek to follow.

  23. Mary, I can see you are convinced of apostolic succession, the corporeal presence, sacramentalism, and the broader Roman framework of Scripture and Tradition. Of course from that perspective you would feel that I’ve gone astray. You see me as spiritually derailed, or something to that effect.
    I’m working from a totally differnt perspective. FOr me, Scripture is the final authority so that everything is filtered through it. The history of the church is important, but I believe we must sift through all of it since Scripture is our rule of faith. Without that we leave the door open to whatever developments arise. The Eastern Orthodox Church has their own narrative and they, too, claim apostolic succession and Tradition. In addition, thousands of denominations, sects, and organizations exist with their own narratives of continuity, though they don’t usually call it apostolic succession. My point is that we need an ultimate test, and the dogmas of Rome cannot suffice. Thank you, though, for your conciliatory attitude. As I’ve said before, I’m always willing to learn and expand, and to make adjustments when I am missing something.

  24. Hmmn…not sure I see the connection you’re posing. Why not posit a spiritual presence? Why say that it’s literal? Why continue to frame it in scholastic terms?

  25. “WHO is like unto God” Who has the infinite power of God to proscribe our Infinite God’s love through a finite symbol.
    “WHO is like unto God” Only sins against the Holy Spirit are unforgivable, as sins against the Holy Spirit destroy the soul and scandalize. The soul must be restored through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The scandal must be removed from the scandalized for the rest of one’s life.

  26. Why confine it to “spiritual” when is is obviously both spirit and matter – true Food indeed. Manna, bread of the angels. was both physical and spiritual sustenance. It’s a Mystery!

  27. This whole idea that the bread and wine used int he Lord’s Supper is the actual body and blood of Christ doesn’t jibe with the way St. paul spoke. He said that whoever eats and drinks it in an unworthy manner eats and drinks damnation to themselves because they do not discern the ‘body.’ In Paul’s theology, the body of Christ is his church. These people were pushing and shoving and being unminful of others as some rushed ahead to commit gluttony, leaving others without anything to eat. It was a practical problem Pual dealt with here. The ritual was within the context of a meal that was practiced wrongly. Today we do it in a very orderly way which precludes that possibility. Scripture uses a lot of figurative language to get things across. So we can’t apply a strictly literal hermeneutic to teh text.

  28. This whole idea that the bread and wine used int he Lord’s Supper is the actual body and blood of Christ doesn’t jibe with the way St. paul spoke.”
    but it does “jibe” with Christ’s words: “This is my Body”
    “He (St. Paul) said that whoever eats and drinks it in an unworthy manner eats and drinks damnation to themselves because they do not discern the ‘body.’ ”
    The Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ in the Real Presence is indivisible. Those who eat and drink the Real Presence have life and those who do not, do not have life in them.

  29. Mary, you assume this ‘body’ that Paul speaks of is the physical presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. I earlier explained it makes more sense tio understand ‘body’ as the church or of Christ’s followers who gather. It is inaccurate toa ssume otherwise, I think. So to ‘eat and drink’ in a worthy manner would, in this context, mean taking into account the group and sharing in an orderly and peaceful fashion. I think the text is getting at this.

  30. “So to ‘eat and drink’ in a worthy manner would, in this context, mean taking into account the group and sharing in an orderly and peaceful fashion. I think the text is getting at this.”
    “…the group” is in the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the altar at Consecration.

  31. Jon: You will not know what I mean until you will to know what I mean. Saint Thomas Aquinas said to his sister: “All you have to do to get to heaven is to will it.”

  32. Enigmatically interesting. I still have no idea what you’re saying, and you have not provided support for your literal hermeneutic/exegesis.

  33. Jon: Your isogesis is not supported by your literal hermeneutic/exegesis. Why do not the Protestants have saints, saints who are not canonized by the Catholic Church?

  34. Mary, i do not interpret it literally, but figuratively. The New Testament letters address themselves to the saints at various locations. Saints here are synonymous with Christians: people who are set apart unto God and holy.

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