Three French hens

The third day of Christmas is also the festival of St. John. This John wrote one of the four Gospels, three epistles (including two of the shortest books in the Bible), and the Apocalypse or Revelation, the last book of the Bible. He presents himself in his Gospel as Jesus’ best friend, or “the disciple Jesus loved.” In fact he never mentions his name in the Gospel, which leads some scholars to question whether or not he wrote the book of Revelation, since in the first chapter of that book he mentions his name twice.

In the original Greek, and in most English translations, John’s writings contain the simplest words and grammar but express the most profound thoughts. His Gospel begins with these words: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Only one of those words contains more than one syllable, yet the mystery of the Holy Trinity is stated with these words.

Early Christian histories and traditions say that John was the only apostle of Christ not to be martyred. Before dying, Jesus entrusted care of his mother Mary to John. After the resurrection, when Peter asked Jesus about John’s future, Jesus refused to answer, saying only, “What business of it is yours if I chose to let him live until I return?” John quickly points out that Jesus never said that John would not die, but because of his long life some early Christians believed that Jesus had meant John would not die.

The apostle John did die, and centuries later the emperor Justinian built a basilica where John was buried. Yet, like Stephen, John also is with Jesus in Paradise and will return when Christ comes in glory. On this festival day, Christians thank the Lord for faithful witnesses such as John the apostle. We rejoice to have his writings teaching us today about Jesus. J.



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