St. John was the brother of Saint James the Greater. Both saints were originally fisherman as was their father, Zebedee. St. John may have been the youngest of the Apostles but he did not lack spirit. The writer of a Gospel, serveral Epistles, and the Book of Revelation, we can learn much of St. John from the Holy Scriptures. In this lesson we will study the life of St. John as presented in the Gospels, in the writings of the Church Fathers, and in the Catechism. We will also learn several prayers to him and have an engaging activity in honor of St. John.
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As we saw above, St. Jerome in his biography of St. John, declared that one of the reasons that St. John wrote the Gospels was to refute the heresies of Cerinthus and the Ebionites. St. Irenaeus agreed:
“John, the disciple of the Lord, preaches this faith, and seeks, by the proclamation of the Gospel, to remove that error which by Cerinthus had been disseminated among men…” (Roberts and Donaldson. eds. 1887. pg 426)
St. John himself tells us why he wrote his Gospel:
“But these are written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God: and that believing, you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31)
St. John’s Gospel contains eight miracles and six of them are unique to his Gospel. The miracle at the wedding feast of Cana and Lazarus’ resurrection, for instance, are not mentioned in the Synoptic Gospels. Other incidents, such as Jesus’ washing of the feet of the Apostles, are also unique to St. John. Instead of parables, St. John often gives us dialogues and discourses. St. John emphasizes the sacramental life of the Church. For instance, even before the Last Supper, Jesus discourses on the Bread of Life:
“Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say to you; Moses gave you not bread from heaven, but My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life to the world. They said therefore unto Him: Lord, give us always this bread. And Jesus said to them: I am the bread of life: he that cometh to Me shall not hunger: and he that believeth in Me shall never thirst.” (John: 6:32-34)
St. John also relates St. Nathanael’s declaration that Jesus is the Son of God in the very first book of his Gospel – a revelation that unfolds more slowly in the Synoptic Gospels. Pope Paul VI in his encyclical On Christian Joy (Gaudete in Domino) promulgated on May 9, 1975, speaks of the joy in Saint John’s Gospel:
“But it is necessary here below to understand properly the secret of the unfathomable joy which dwells in Jesus and which is special to Him. It is especially the Gospel of Saint John that lifts the veil, by giving us the intimate words of the Son of God made man. If Jesus radiates such peace, such assurance, such happiness, such availability, it is by reason of the inexpressible love by which He knows that He is loved by His Father… This certitude is inseparable from the consciousness of Jesus...
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