How St. John the Evangelist and Apostle Speaks To Us Today JONATHAN B. COE This is to good not to share {Pjm}


While today’s orthodox Catholic in the West complains about a virulent secular culture outside of the Church and scandal and crisis within the pillar and ground of the truth, the apostle whom Jesus loved had his own formidable challenges during his day. While we legitimately complain about the erosion of religious liberties in the U.S., he dealt with outright persecution, especially during the reigns of Nero and Domitian.

While we have grave concerns about the present scandal and crisis in the Church worldwide, John confronted his own enemies of the gospel. Though his enemies that surface in his First Epistle are difficult to specifically identify, the apostle called them antichrists, liars, deceivers, and false prophets who denied that Jesus was “the Christ” (2:22; 5:1) and “the Son of God” (2:23; 5:5) who had truly “come in the flesh” (4:2).

In the biblical narrative, there is definitely a rhythm and relationship between the servant of God’s private and public ministry. Moses spends 40 days and 40 nights on Mt. Sinai (private ministry), then comes down off the mountain to, among other things, administer punishment (public ministry) to the Israelites whom he found dancing around the golden calf.

Both John the Baptist and our Lord spent long periods of time in the desert fasting and praying before commencing their ministries. Jesus was known to regularly retreat to the deserted places during his earthly ministry to pray to the Father and replenish his inner resources.

Our own public ministry, which often involves marriage, family, friendships, work, local church involvement, etc., is like the house that is framed on a concrete foundation (our private ministry to God). Christians of all persuasions can find themselves cranky when the house they are building on the concrete foundation is twice as big as the foundation itself.

A common mistake in our time is to spend an inordinate amount of time in a prophetic mode in criticizing the Church and not nearly enough time in being refreshed internally by her immense resources. Some practicing Catholics do have a unique call and vocation to be in a prophetic mode much of the time, but unless this is counter-balanced by a devotional mode, they will eventually burn out.

Most of us cannot be in the prophetic mode 24/7. We put the prophetic mantle on when we are discussing with friends over coffee the most recent revelation of corruption and depravity in a particular diocese, but then take it off when we go to Confession and seek to confess our sins and get right with God.

This assertion is coming from someone who has recently written four articles in this magazine excoriating prelates and priests, especially in the U.S., who have wandered far from the sacred deposit of the faith, in both their teaching and behavior. There’s undoubtedly more where that came from, but, without a life of retreat and renewal, I am a man most miserable.

With today’s practicing Catholic facing opposition and turbulence from both without and within the Church, the life and writings of John the evangelist can be a good place to retreat to, along with other devotional practices, as we finish one year and look with vigilance to the next. For example, in times of affliction, when there is a confusing, cacophony of voices, I’ve never failed to be instructed and edified, by reading the First Letter of St. John in one sitting, a time investment of about 30 minutes.

The theological left and other sophisticates, who are in love with moral ambiguity and shades of grey, would undoubtedly find the epistle “simplistic” and “binary,” but, for the earnest and faithful Catholic, it is instead profoundly simple and renders one with a new clarity of vision and purpose. Such reading can be like hearing the still, small voice: the wisdom of God that is almost completely absent in our institutions of higher learning and in some of our local parishes where heterodox priests reach into their groovy grab-bag of social justice bromides and feel-good theology for their latest homily.

Immersion into the life and writings of St. John is a journey into the mind and heart of the apostle that Jesus loved (21:20, 24). Such a distinction leads one to ask, “Does God play favorites?” The well-taught Catholic smiles in response and answers, “Why of course he does; we call them saints.”

Cain was the first radical egalitarian and proto-social justice warrior. He and Abel made decidedly different offerings to God and yet he demanded an equal outcome from the Almighty (Gen. 4:1-13).

Yahweh played favorites under the old covenant. Corruption and depravity were so rampant in Israel during the time of the Babylonian exile that he told Ezekiel that even if Noah, Daniel, and Job lived in the land, he would still judge the nation severely though these three luminaries would save their own lives by their righteousness (Ezek. 14:20).

One cannot help but notice that our Lord kept some of his followers at arm’s length (e.g., those who followed him for the loaves and fishes) while others he pulled especially close to himself. Peter, James, and John were in his inner circle.

At the Last Supper, John sat in the place of honor next to Christ (Jn. 13:23, 25). Such passages lead us to ask how one becomes like the apostle that Christ loved.

The answer to that question is certainly not by already being a saint or close to perfection. The Gospels make it clear that both John and his brother James struggled with selfish ambition and anger.

The sons of Zebedee would ask to be seated on his left and right when Christ came into the full glory of his kingdom (Mk. 10:35-37) and they wanted to call fire down on a village of Samaritans when they did not receive Christ (Lk. 9:51-56). This should be encouraging to practicing Catholics who are fighting various sins and question if God is even interested in intimacy with them or using them to advance his kingdom.

What God is looking for most of all is what Fr. Jacques Philippe calls “good faith.” Put another way, God is not only calling those to his inner circle who are already saints but also those who want to be saints.

I recently heard a practicing Catholic say, “I’m not entirely sure I’m on the straight and narrow, in comparison to the saints throughout Church history, but I want to be.” These Catholics may have their ups and downs but are pursuing a single-minded devotion to Christ exemplified by the apostles who left family, houses, businesses, and friends to follow Christ.

Like John, they are pursuing Christ as an End-in-Himself not a means-to-an-end (loaves and fishes). They get distracted now and then as John did but their modus operandi is characterized by pursuing the One Thing that is crystallized in Holy Writ:

King David only wanted one thing: “…that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple” (Ps. 27: 4b). Jesus told Martha that only one thing was needful and Mary had chosen it: to sit at his feet, listen to his voice and bask in his presence (Lk. 10:38-42).

The apostle Paul counted all things as refuse except for one thing: an intimate knowledge of Christ characterized by knowing him in the power of his resurrection, fellowship of his suffering, and identification with his death (Phil. 3:10). Like John, as practicing Catholics, we must not lose the Forest (Christ) in looking at all the individual trees (the particulars of our faith).

The truth of our mission is captured in the title of a book by Søren Kierkegaard, Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing, and summarized in John’s final directive to the audience of his First Letter: “Little children keep yourselves from idols” (5:21). Idols become like adulterous lovers who defile our marriage bed with Christ our Bridegroom.

Someone may ask, “Is a utilitarian relationship with Christ really such a bad thing? Doesn’t he do things for us? Isn’t he our Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, Provider, etc.?”

This is an excellent question, and, yes, we no doubt receive the benefits of availing ourselves to a full sacramental life in Christ. However, this isn’t the whole picture.

The earnest, practicing Catholic is like a woman from an economically deprived background who marries a virtuous man who is well-off. She is grateful for her newfound financial security but her favorite part of the marriage is being with him.

Another important way to imitate the apostle whom Jesus loved is in his relationship to the Mother of God: “When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.”

We see this mutual affection in the recent (December 12) Feast of the Apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe between Juan Diego and Our Lady. She met his needs for nurturing maternal care:

Listen, and let it penetrate into your heart, my dear little son, do not be troubled or weighed down with grief. Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your Fountain of Life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need?

He met her needs for receiving the tender affection of a son and in aligning his life with her agenda, which was to build a shrine for her where she could “show him [Christ] … exalt him … make him manifest … give him to the people.” Diego humbly participated in her goal as Unifier in bringing the indigenous people and Spaniards together.

The Mother of God’s agenda was to bring heaven to earth. This is what the apostle John, as an elderly man, saw in his heavenly vision in the Apocalypse: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands” (Rev. 7:9; emphasis mine).

Few of us are called to such a spectacular or consequential mission as Diego or John, but we all are called, as St. Thérèse of Lisieux declared, to do small things with great love. This may mean, without sacrificing truth or integrity, bringing people together in small ways, whether it be at home, work, our local churches, and/or in the public square. END QUOTES

Editor’s note: Pictured above is “St. John the Evangelist” painted by Vladimir Borovikovsky (1757-1825) for Kazan Cathedral in St. Petersburg, Russia

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I am an Informed and fully practicing Roman Catholic

4 thoughts on “How St. John the Evangelist and Apostle Speaks To Us Today JONATHAN B. COE This is to good not to share {Pjm}”

  1. The 1st time the lord told me to go on a fast it was a Isaiah 58 fast that lasted 10 days no food just water. He said he wanted to raise me to a higher level. And told me when it was to occur. And on that day thus Angel walked into the church meeting room and everyone there fell to the floor and began speaking in tongues .and the unclean spirits were cast out and the spiritual anointing increased.
    The fog or haze lifted from the room after . the angel left
    It was an interesting experience . we all became more prophetic.

    1. Our God can be described as “All good things perfected”

      God is Mysterious and always working miracles in our midst IF we are able to see them.

      God Bless you, and may He guide your life path,

  2. Another time the lord told me to work at christian leadership college 3000 miles away . And while interviewing 2nd timr for a secular job. The holy spirit spoke to me and said “if you take that secular job it will interfere with the jib I want you to take”.i sAID to the spirit . what job is that? He said I want you to be a DJ at a christian radio station. So I applied to the christian radio station and got the job.

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