Thursday, December 27, 2012

What we know of Jesus' life from St. John alone, and what we would not know if we only had the Fourth Gospel

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.
Eight miracles
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!


Chatto said...

Am I right in remembering that we also wouldn't have the Institution Narrative of the Eucharist?

Anonymous said...

Or the Transfiguration.

Clinton R. said...

When one earnestly reads St. John's Gospel, he can come to no other conclusion that the Catholic interpretation of the Bible is the correct one.

Unknown said...

The Church celebrates the feast of St. John to celebrate the holy life of St. John the Beloved--the only disciple who remained with the Lord as he was dying on the cross; and the disciple whom Jesus entrusted his mother to. May we all experience the same love and intimacy for the Lord St. John knew.

O Glorious Apostle, who, on account of thy virginal purity, wast so beloved by Jesus as to deserve to lay thy head upon his divine breast, and to be left, in his place, as son to his most holy Mother; I beg thee to inflame me with a most ardent love towards Jesus and Mary. Obtain for me from our Lord that I, too, with a heart purified from earthly affections, may be made worthy to be ever united to Jesus as a faithful disciple, and to Mary as a devoted son, both here on earth and eternally in heaven. Amen.

Anonymous said...

Co-Redemptrix? Hmmm. I know this gets bandied about a lot. I wonder if it's so. It seems to me that the title Redeemer belongs to Christ alone. Good piece though! Thank you!

Tonitrus said...

From the preface of the Gospel of John in Challoner's Douay-Rheims Bible:

"St. Jerome relates that, when he was earnestly requested by the brethren to write the Gospel, he answered he would do it, if by ordering a common fast, they would all put up their prayers together to the Almighty God; which being ended replenished with the clearest and fullest revelation coming from Heaven, he burst forth into that preface: IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD."

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

In his trilogy about Jesus, Our Holy Father says that Saint john is not the author of the Gospel as we have always been told but the author is some anonymous fella named John.

I guess that is the discontinuity within continuity.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

While his personal writings on John are a bit troubling, Pope Benedict's official teachings (even through his Wednesday audiences) uphold the tradition about the Beloved Disciple.

Like you, I sometimes wish that he had never written "Jesus of Nazareth" ... or at least that he would have been more docile before his own ordinary magisterium!

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Fr. You note that his personal writings (that is, what he personally believes) are a bit troubling (to say the least) but that his official teachings uphold the tradition but how is the average reader to know that he must distinguish between the Pope of personal belief and the Pope of the Magisterium; and what does that do to the ideas of integrity; is he two men?

When have we Catholics, to say nothing about Non-Catholics, Jews, Mahometans, atheists, etc, ever before been expected to dissect and discriminate between the personal beliefs of the Pope vs his Magisterial beliefs and since when have we, and non-Catholics, been expected to calmly accept the idea that it is ok that such a radical contradiction be considered acceptable or capable of resolution?

Really, this is quite troubling; and who does not think it likely that readers of his Trilogy would be wrong to think that what the Pope wrote in those books is what the Catholic Church believes?

What a nightmare.

With all due respect, Father, if Our Holy Father desires to write as an academic, I think he ought resign the Papacy and return to the University because what he is writing is damaging to the Faith.

Anonymous said...

That is why I like you so much, Fr. Ryan - you are honest and face facts instead of trying to whitewash and do damage control.
I, too, wish he had never written "Jesus of Nazareth". But he did write it as a private theologian and not the Vicar of Christ.
The Holy Ghost continues to be with His Church.

You are always in my daily prayers, Father.
God bless you, and a most blessed New Year to you filled with many graces!


Clinton R. said...


I am sorry if I am going off tangent, but why do you think His Holiness wrote "Jesus of Nazareth" and choose to present a modernistic view of the Gospel? I realize the Pope wrote this book more as a scholar than in his role as St. Peter's successor, but it does create a certain amount of consternation.

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