December 27th, Feast of St. John the Evangelist
The Gospel of St. John, which many of the great Catholic Scholars hold to be the last book of the Bible to be written, is unique among the books of Scripture as being that which is most enlightened and enlightening to all men.
There are many details and events from our Savior’s life which we know only from St. John. And, yet we may be surprised to notice one very significant point concerning which he have no word at all from the Beloved.
Hear the words of Fr. Cornelius a’ Lapide (the greatest Catholic Biblical Scholar):
“John has a style peculiar to himself, entirely different from that of the other Evangelists and sacred writers. For, as an eagle, at one time he raises himself above all, at another time he stoops down to the earth, as it were for his pray, that with the rusticity of his style he may capture the simple. At one time he is as wise as the cherubim, at another time he burns as do the seraphim.
“The reason is because John was most like Christ, and most dear to him; and he in turn loved Christ supremely. Therefore at his Last Supper he reclined upon his breast. From this source, therefore, he sucked in, as it were, the mind, the wisdom, and the burning love of Christ. Wherefore, when thou readest and hearest John, think that thou readest and hearest Christ. For Christ hath transfused his own spirit and his own love into St. John.” (Preface to the Commentary on St. John’s Gospel)
Two additional years of ministry
It will be helpful for all those reading the Gospel according to St. John to recognize that this Evangelist records two whole years of ministry which are almost entirely passed over by the other three evangelists.
While Sts. Matthew, Mark, and Luke relate the baptism of the Lord and then immediately continue on with the public ministry of our Savior which began after the arrest of St. John the Baptist, the Beloved Disciple tells us of the nearly two years of ministry which occurred between our Lord’s baptism and the arrest of St. John.
Here St. Bede the Venerable (from the Catena Aurea on Mark 1:13)
Let no one, however, suppose that the putting of John in prison took place immediately after the forty days’ temptation and the fast of the Lord; for whoever reads the Gospel of John will find that the Lord taught many things before the putting of John in prison, and also did many miracles.”
The following occurred during those first two years of ministry:
Jesus called Andrew, John, Peter, Philip and Bartholomew to follow him (this was the first calling, long before he saw the two sets of brothers fishing upon the sea)
Our Savior turned water into wine at Cana of Galilee.
Jesus cleansed the Temple for the first time (he would do so again in the last days of his life).
The Lord spoke with Nicodemus who came to him by night.
All these are related in the first three chapters of St. John’s Gospel.
Further, we assert that there are eight miracles which St. John alone records:
1. The conversion of water into wine, in chapter two.
2. The healing of the sick child of the nobleman, chapter four.
3. The healing of the paralytic at the pool in the sheep-market, chapter five.
4. Giving sight to the man born blind, chapter nine.
5. Raising Lazarus from the dead, chapter eleven.
6. The falling back of Judas and the others who came to arrest our Savior, chapter eighteen.
7. The flow of blood and water from the pierced side of Jesus, chapter nineteen.
8. The multiplication of the fishes for a great catch, in chapter twenty-one.
In addition to these miracles, there are of course many sermons of our Savior which St. John alone records. The most famous of these is the Bread of Life Discourse, others include his defense of the woman caught in adultery and our Savior’s apologiae during his trial. And there are many others besides.
What we would not know: The name of the Mother of God
And yet, it is somewhat surprising to realize that – although this Gospel has a very special focus on our Lady (even conveying her role as Mediatrix and co-Redemptrix), and although St. John was entrusted with the care of the Blessed Virgin through the last years of her life – the Fourth Gospel never once tells us the name of the Mother of God.
Was it perhaps because the name “Mary” was so sacred and so precious to the Beloved Disciple (so as as even to move him to tears and great ecstasies), that St. John preferred to simply call her “Mother” and “Woman”? As the other evangelists had already named her in their works, the great St. John rests silent, in awe before the Mother of God.
St. John the Beloved, Pray for us!