Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator
John is still a common name in our world. It has been so for at least the past 2,000 years. Today we celebrate the Feast of St. John, evangelist and apostle. Whether this was one man or two or three is a puzzle that probably never be solved. However, the tradition in the church is that the apostle identified as one of the Sons of Thunder, the son of Zebedee, the evangelist who composed the fourth Gospel and three epistles, as well as the seer who composed the Book of Revelation are all one and the same man. He is also regarded as many as the Beloved Disciple who was given the care of Mary by her son as he hung on the cross. Scripture scholars today believe that it is not probably that one man fits all these descriptions; so we probably celebrate a "corporate personality" in today's feast, a day on which we remember the zeal of an apostle, the genius of a writer, and the devotion of an adopted son.
The synoptic Gospels record that John, the son of Zebedee, was one of three apostles who were favored by being present at three important events in the life of Jesus, the raising of the daughter of Jairus, the Transfiguration, and the agony in the garden of Gethsemane. Curiously, these three events are not mentioned in the Gospel written by John the evangelist. This is one reason that leads scholars to believe that they are not one and the same. The fourth Gospel names the disciple who stood at the foot of the cross as simply the "Beloved" Disciple. He is also so named on Easter morning as the companion of Peter who ran to the tomb when Mary Magdalen gave them the news of the resurrection. Some scholars therefore identify the Beloved Disciple as the author of that Gospel. This Gospel did not appear until late in the first century and seems to have sprung out of the community at Ephesus.
Finally, there is the testimony of the star-gazing writer of the Book of Revelation, a man who was exiled because of his faith to the isle of Patmos. This work records the attempts of the Roman Empire to crush the Way which had been dubbed Christianity in Antioch. While it is possible that this is the same John who wrote the Gospel, the time line makes it somewhat improbable.
So today's feast recognizes that during the first century of the Christian era a remarkable man or series of men named John contributed a lasting legacy of faith and perseverance to those of us who have come after him. He is still a guiding light for all who would follow the same Christ.