“Love consists not in feeling great thingsSt. John of the Cross
but in having a great detachment
and in suffering for the beloved.”
St. John the Evangelist, whose feast day is December 27th, is known as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” or “John the Beloved.”
Yet these were not John’s only nicknames. As one of the sons of Zebedee, St. John and his brother, St. James the Greater, were given the nickname “Sons of Thunder” by Jesus Himself. While we don’t know exactly how they obtained this nickname, it strongly implies that they were fiery by nature.
On one occasion, when the people in a village of Samaria rejected the message of Jesus, James and John wanted Jesus to call down fire from heaven on them (Luke 9:54).
On another occasion, the two brothers said to Jesus: “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you…Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” (Mark 10:35, 37).
This seems a rather arrogant request from close disciples of Our Lord!
We know that the grace of God can transform people. By the end of their lives, both James and John became known for something other than their ambitious temperaments. James was the first apostle to be martyred and John will always be known and remembered as the only apostle who did not flee the scene of the crucifixion.
Yes, it was John the Beloved who kept vigil at the cross with the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was John to whom Jesus confided the care of His mother from the cross: “Behold your Son…Behold your Mother” (John 19:26-27).
There are three things in particular that we can learn from St. John, the beloved disciple of Jesus.
1. True Friendship and Devotion
First of all, St. John is a model of true friendship and devotion to Our Lord.
From what is revealed in Sacred Scripture, we know that John was present at key events in Jesus’ life, including the Transfiguration, the Institution of the Eucharist, the Lord’s Crucifixion, and the discovery of the Resurrection.
It is said that John “reclined at the bosom of the Lord” during the Last Supper. And it was John who had the courage to ask Jesus who His betrayer would be.
2. True Humility
We can also learn humility from St. John. We glimpse this humility after the Resurrection.
John was with Peter when Mary Magdalen told them of the empty tomb. Both John and Peter ran to the tomb, but John ran faster, for he was younger.
However, upon arriving at the tomb, John waited outside for Peter and only then followed him into the empty room where Jesus had been laid.
It is clear that John acted in humility and respect. He allowed Peter—whom Christ had chosen to be leader of the Apostles—to enter first.
3. Holy Confidence
Finally, we can learn holy confidence from St. John, for he was the first one to recognize the Risen Lord at Lake Tiberias:
After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat; but that night they caught nothing.
Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, for the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his clothes, for he was stripped for work, and sprang into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.John 21:1-8
If we imagine snapshots being taken at certain moments in Christ’s life, we could say without a doubt that in those pictures we would see Christ’s friend and disciple, John, standing close by.
That is why, although there are many titles given to this saint, such as the “Apostle of Charity,” “the Evangelist,” and one of “the Sons of Thunder,” the title that says the most about St. John is “The one whom Jesus loved.” It is by this title that St. John is known as the patron saint of love, loyalty, and friendship.
Let us ask this saint to help us love Jesus the way he did!
Prayer to Saint John the Beloved
O Glorious Saint John, you were so loved by Jesus that you merited to rest your head upon his breast, and to be left in His place as a son to Mary. Obtain for us an ardent love for Jesus and Mary. Let me be united with them now on earth and forever after in heaven. Amen.