Sermon 1: St. John, Apostle and Evangelist by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876

"Peter saw the disciple whom Jesus loved."--John 21.


The saints exercise a various influence on the hearts of the faithful, according to their various character, and the various vocations to which the Lord hath called them. There are saints, whose lives excite our amazement and admiration; as, for instance, St. Simon the Stylite, who, for a number of years, remained in a standing position on a pillar; or St. Peter of Alcantara, whose extreme penance filled even St. Teresa with astonishment. In the case of the saint whose memory the Church celebrates today, we feel our hearts drawn towards him. It is he of whom it is written, that he was the disciple whom Jesus loved, and who ranks high among the elect on account of his great love for his neighbor,--St. John the Evangelist.

I will take advantage of this hour to consider with you, why St. John called himself the disciple whom Jesus loved. If we understand this, we will honor St. John by a still greater devotion, and we will follow his virtuous example with still greater fidelity. O Mary, thou who hast so frequently blest thy foster-son St. John, and who hast guided him in his sublime destiny with maternal tenderness and care, show thyself also a mother to us! I speak in the holy name of Jesus, to the greater honor of God!

In order to judge of the intensity of a person's love, we must consider the favors which he confers upon the person loved. Thus, in order to understand how ardently Jesus loved His mother, we need but consider with what prerogatives He has gifted her in preference to the angels and saints, and all other creatures. So with St. John.

Which are the prerogatives and privileges by which Christ has distinguished St. John from all other men, even the Apostles, and which serve as proofs of the particular love of our Lord for His disciple? First, in respect to the person of St. John, he was fortunate in sharing with the Apostles and other disciples of our Lord the greatest favors, in preference to so many others.

St. John belonged to the chosen people, and according to the flesh, was descended from the family of Abraham, the father of the faithful. He enjoyed the happiness of living in the same country, and at the same time in which Christ was born. He had the supreme pleasure of seeing Him face to face. But he was to receive still greater privileges. He was one of the twelve whom Jesus chose from among the multitude of men to live in His immediate vicinity; to be His companion. Thus he enjoyed the advantage of having the example of Christ daily before him, of listening to every word He preached; of witnessing all the miracles which He wrought. What a privilege! What a grace! It is true, the other Apostles shared these favors, and therefore Jesus called them all blessed. But St. John was yet to receive still greater favors, and more especial graces.

It is a pious saying, that St. John, whilst yet a child, was so fortunate as to have been an associate of the Infant Jesus, a favor which no other Apostle ever enjoyed. St. John was one of the three to whom our Lord revealed Himself at His transfiguration on Mt. Thabor. The other two were St. Peter and St. James. These three, among all the Apostles, were nearest to our Lord, and He spoke more frequently and more confidingly to them than to the other disciples and Apostles. Still, St. John enjoyed the most marked distinctions in preference to them, and these, without doubt, will be resplendent in heaven for all eternity.

The Gospel mentions three particular favors which were conferred upon him at the time when Jesus accomplished the work of our redemption; namely, at the last Supper, on Calvary, and after his ascension in the island of Patmos. At the last Supper Christ instituted the Blessed Sacrament,--the sacrifice of the New Testament. Christ, surrounded by His Apostles, celebrated the first Holy Mass!

Here Jesus is seated, and on his bosom rests St. John. Who can form an idea of the many graces which poured into the soul of St. John on that evening? What an influence must not the recollection of this privilege have exercised on the entire life of the Apostle! Peter and the other Apostles became alarmed, and in a terrified manner put the question to Jesus: "Is it I?" But St. John, all imbued with the love of Christ, and confident that he was innocent of the guilt of treason, simply asked: Who is it?

What devotion must have filled his soul, when afterwards, as Apostle and Priest of the Lord, he offered the sacrifice of Mass, and thought of his proximity to Jesus at the last Supper! Who can conceive with what tender feelings of gratitude and affection, St. John must, in his after life, have received Jesus in the Holy Communion? What soul, that really loves Jesus, does not envy St. John the privilege which our Saviour bestowed upon him?

The second place in which we behold St. John distinguished as the disciple whom Jesus loved, is on Calvary. Who among us does not wish to have enjoyed the privilege of seeing Jesus on the cross, to have been near Him when He accomplished the work of redemption? Of all the Apostles, St. John was the only one who had this unspeakable happiness. But the greatest favor which Jesus granted St. John, as a token of His love towards him, was His word spoken from the cross: "Woman, behold thy son! Son, behold thy mother!" Jesus committed St. John to His mother's care, and charged her to extend to him a mother's love. Oh, happy St. John! What a fountain of grace and merit opens itself to you by this testament of Christ on the cross!

It is accepted as an established principle, that if God grant a person a vocation, He will also give him the graces corresponding to this vocation. The extent of the love which Jesus cherished for His mother, is the measure of grace which He imparted to St. John, that he might perform the duties of a child towards such a mother. If one person intrust another with some very important business, to which he himself can not attend, he pays him well, and he would rather give him a little more than less, so that he may feel assured that the work is done. And, moreover, what a pledge did Jesus give the disciple of His love! He was to have the example of the Blessed Virgin constantly before him; she, who is the mirror of justice, and whose duty, as mother, was to see that St. John, her foster-son, fulfilled the duties of his vocation as perfectly as possible.

Where is there a pious mother who does not feel this obligation? Maternal love prompts her to take all possible care that her children be not lost. Now, if it is a pious belief that no one, for whose salvation Mary has once offered her prayers, will be lost, must not St. John have been assured of his salvation, since Mary, as his mother, was obliged to pray for him, to save him. St. Paul may well exclaim: "I chastise my body, so that after having preached to others, I may not myself be lost." St. John, as fosterson of Mary, was infallibly certain of his salvation.

Even after His ascension, Christ still continued His intercourse with St. John by divine revelations, and disclosed to him the mysteries of heaven. Verily, St. John, thou art the disciple whom Jesus loved. But Jesus loves us also. Hence we may look for great graces, and should prepare ourselves to receive them with fruit! Amen!




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Sermon 2: St. John, Apostle and Evangelist by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876

"This is the disciple who leaned on Christ's breast at Supper."--John 21.


Every child, that has received some instruction, will immediately answer to the question: "Who is the disciple of whom it is written: This is the disciple whom Jesus loved?" It is St. John the Evangelist. He is deserving of this name, as is proven by the numerous favors by which Christ distinguished him from all the Apostles.

Last year we saw that we, too, as children of the Church, enjoy so many and such marked graces--which divine Providence through Christ has conferred upon us in preference to so many others--that it may well be said of us, that Jesus loves us. But when we meditate upon the life of St. John, we may justly exclaim: Behold the disciple who loved Jesus; his whole life gave testimony of his love. And for us it will be of the greatest importance to imitate him in this respect. For, what would it have availed St. John, if Christ had granted him such great privileges, and treated him with such marked preference, if he had not reciprocated his Saviour's love, and had not co-operated with the graces received, and thereby sanctified his life!

Judas, too, received marvelous and numerous graces, in preference to so many others; but on this account his downfall was the more hideous, nay terrible, his ruin more sad. Judas wasted the graces which Christ effused into his heart; John made use of them. Let us today reflect upon this, and let it serve as a warning and encouragement for us.

O Mary, who hast loved St. John with a mother's love, obtain for us the true love of Jesus, and the grace to prove our love towards Him, by a reciprocation of His sacred love! I speak in the holy name of Jesus, to the greater honor of God!

Behold the disciple who loved Jesus! I say John was worthy of this encomium. And why? We shall find our answer in considering the characteristic marks by which true love manifests itself.

Love is an emotion of the heart, which, like all other sensations, can not be described. If a person has not experienced this feeling, no one will be able to explain it to him; and if he has experienced it, he will need no further explanation. Every child has affection for its mother, and the feelings which an affectionate child entertains, it will manifest by its exterior demeanor, although it can not, as yet, give utterance to it.

Do you love Jesus? Ask of your heart when you mention His holy name. We are told that St. Augustine was wont to say: "I relish nothing in this world that does not come in connection with the holy name of Jesus." And St. Bernard, after pronouncing this holy name, felt as if honey had touched his lips. If this be true of the saints, in consideration of what Christ had done for them, and in remembrance of the tokens of love which they had received from Him, what must have been the emotions of St. John, the disciple of love, when remembering Jesus with whom he had associated, on whose bosom he reclined at the institution of the sacrament of love! He was so intimate with Jesus, and received such numerous proofs of Christ's love for him.

Child of the Church, what does your heart feel when you pronounce the sweet name of Jesus--when you think of Him? By this, judge of the sincerity of your love towards Him.

The second mark of sincere love, is the care with which we strive not to offend the one beloved. How far removed from every stain of sin was St. John! There is no communion between Belial and Christ, between sin and Christ. Of course, even holy souls are not certain of never committing an imperfection. But we might piously believe that, after St. John was called by Christ, no stain of sin defiled his soul. O man! redeemed by Christ, does your conscience testify that you never defile it by any venial sin?

Which is the third characteristic of true love? It is the desire to do what we know will be agreeable to the loved one, and what will be a source of pleasure to him. Hence the great desire of St. Teresa to accomplish all things in the most perfect manner possible, thereby to render herself more pleasing to Jesus. "But this," says St. Paul, "this is the holy will of God--your sanctification;" and to attain it we must follow the example of Christ, and imitate Him, in accordance with the assurance of St. Paul: "For whom He foreknew, He also predestinated to be made conformable to the image of His Son"

"Learn of me." This exhortation of the Sacred Heart is addressed to all, who, as children of the Church, know Jesus, and call upon His holy name, and profess their belief in Him. "Be my followers, as I have been a follower of Christ," thus St. Paul might well affirm; and with equal justice might St. John have thus expressed himself,--he who beheld Jesus with his own eyes, and who had His divine example constantly before him, and for a still longer period beheld the reflection of the same in the virtuous life of the Blessed Virgin.

How like His divine Master must St. John have become, and how gloriously he testified his love for Christ during his whole life! Redeemed mortal, what does your conscience say to this? Is this your desire, to sanctify your life for the love of Jesus? Is this the earnest wish of your heart? Question your life. If so, then indeed your love for Christ is sincere.

How is true love proven? I reply: By the care we take not only to please the one loved, to agree to all his wishes, to assist him, to protect his goods and property, and aid not only him, but also those who are related to him by ties of love, friendship, or kindred.

I make the application and say: If our love for Jesus is genuine, it must manifest itself by the care we take to extend His kingdom on earth, and by the interest we take in the spiritual and temporal welfare of those, for whom Christ came into this world, and for whom He offered His life. It is the fire of holy zeal which must burn within us, an eagerness to spread the faith all over the world, to practise the corporal and spiritual works of mercy in behalf of our neighbor.

John was an Apostle, and how zealously and faithfully he fulfilled the duties of his vocation! We are told that, when well nigh one hundred years of age he continued to address the people, and continually exhorted them to mutual love. But the fervor and fidelity of our love proves itself best by our willingness to make any sacrifice, even that of life itself, for the one loved. It was in this manner that St. John proved his love for Christ; for, during the reign of the tyrant Domitian, he was cast into a caldron of seething oil, and he would have thus sacrificed his life, if he had not been preserved by a miracle.

Although we have not the opportunity of testifying our love for Christ by a bloody martyrdom, still we have sufficient occasion to manifest this love for our Redeemer by patience and resignation to the will of God. The caldron filled with seething oil, admonishes us not to let pass those precious opportunities that are offered us, of suffering with St. John an unbloody martyrdom, and thus showing our love for Jesus. This caldron of seething oil can be for you poverty, calumny, and the injuries which are heaped upon you, the diseases which you may have to bear. By persevering and conquering, your love for Jesus will be manifest.

But the surest pledge of our love for Christ, will be the supreme veneration we pay to Him in the Blessed Sacrament; here He is really present as God and man. Who will have felt this more than St. John? What recollections fraught with heavenly consolation must have filled his soul during his whole life, and with what ardor was he inflamed when he offered the Holy Sacrifice of Mass, or when he bowed down before the Blessed Sacrament!

Devotion to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is the best means of ascertaining the degree of our love for Jesus. Let us herein follow the example of St. John,--of the disciple who loved Jesus! Amen!




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Sermon 3: St. John, Apostle and Evangelist by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876

"My little children, let us not love in word, nor in tongue, but in deed, and in truth."--1 John iii, 18.


St. John, the disciple whom Jesus loved; St. John, the disciple who loved Jesus. In both relations St. John is to us an object of admiration, and, at the same time, our model for imitation. But there is a third trait in his character which shines with peculiar brilliancy: St. John is also the Apostle of brotherly love.

Read his letters, and compare them with those of the other Apostles, and you will be convinced that St. John merited the honorable name: Disciple of love. These epistles are an outpouring of love towards his neighbor, consequent upon his great love of God. They are replete with a longing to call forth and strengthen a similar love in the hearts of all the faithful.

If we inquire still further into the motives which, in the heart of St. John, produced, strengthened and animated this wonderful love, we will perceive that the cause is this: St. John regarded his neighbor in the light of faith. Let us do likewise, and we will feel encouraged to love our neighbor as ourselves, and our lives will prove that we are well disposed towards all.

O Mary, thou Eve of the New Testament, obtain for us that love of our neighbor which inflamed the heart of St. John, that we may mutually edify and sanctify each other! I speak in the holy name of Jesus, to the greater honor of God!

"Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." This is the second commandment, and it is like to the first: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with thy whole heart, with thy whole strength, and with thy whole soul." Verily, these are forcible words, and how few really understand and reflect upon their full signification; and still smaller is the number of those who are governed by these two precepts as was St. John the Evangelist.

This Apostle, who entertained such love for Jesus, fulfilled this great commandment of love of God and of his neighbor in a most perfect manner; because, in the person of Christ, he loved both God and man with unbounded love, and because, as I have said, he regarded every man in the light of faith. Why do we not practise this love of our neighbor in as perfect a manner? I reply: We are deficient in that liveliness of faith and that love for Jesus which animated St. John.

How indifferently a person will treat his neighbor as long as he regards him in a mere natural light! What do we hear more frequently than the remark: What have I to do with that person? We speak thus, because man, simply as a fellow-being, seems to have no particular claim to our sympathy. He is a human being, but still--what is he to me? Oh! a great deal. Regard your neighbor with the eyes of faith, and then how venerable, how attractive, and how worthy of your sympathy will he appear to you! Then you will feel, how St. Chrysostom had reason to exclaim in astonishment: "How, you say: What is that man to me? Why, he is a man, is not this sufficient to rouse your interest in him?"

I will give a practical illustration: You come to a railroad depot. Behold! a poor family just arrived, with a sick infant but a few months old; it is placed on the hard wooden floor! Poor mortal, how wretched, how miserable you are! you will say, if you regard it simply with the eyes of your body. But open the eyes of your spirit to the light of faith, and you will say: O child, in this body covered with disease lives a soul created after the image of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! God has thought of you from all eternity, and has given you a being immeasurably more glorious than all the shining worlds of the firmament; yes, more glorious than all that may be beyond this world of stars, with the exception of the angel worlds!

You are a human being. The Son of God has adopted your nature, and has exalted it above all the choirs of angels, and you are soon to share His glory for all eternity. If already baptized, you are in a state of sanctifying grace, which transforms you into a child of God, and makes it possible for you to gain merits for life eternal. A throne is awaiting you in the heavenly kingdom; and how many gems of merit you can secure for your celestial crown, if on earth you accomplish the holy will of God, and for love of Him faithfully discharge the duties of your vocation! When once you are admitted to the communion of saints, you may address all the angels as your associates; all the saints as your brothers and sisters; Mary as your mother; and Jesus, the Son of God, as your brother. Christian, do you perceive what powerful motives urge us to assist every person with active works of charity?

What, in the next place, incites us to assist others to practise works of mercy, is the merit of such works in the sight of God. "Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy," Christ says; and, again: "What ye do to the least of mine, ye have done to me." And if this holds good in regard to the corporal works of mercy, how much more so in respect to the spiritual, which benefit the soul, and of which St. Chrysostom justly remarks: "A single work of this kind is worth more in the sight of God than all the corporal works taken together, even if we should provide for all the sick and needy of the whole world."

Thus thought St. John; and if with him, we regard all that we can do for the welfare of our neighbor, in the light of faith, we will strive to make use of every opportunity that presents itself, to perform works of mercy, and we will, moreover, seek opportunities of doing good. But what enhances the merit of these works of charity, is the assurance of Christ, with which you are all familiar: "Whatever ye do to the least of mine, you have done to me."

Man, alas! looks upon his neighbor merely with the eyes of his body; he regards only his social position; and therefore we find so great want of zeal for the performance of charitable deeds. And, furthermore, we are but too apt to forget that, by assisting others, we are doing more for ourselves than for our neighbor.

A fervent soul, like St. John's, that truly loves Jesus, is desirous of becoming more conformable to Him, and is anxious to increase its measure of grace, and to become more holy and more pleasing to Him. But it is exactly these services which we render our neighbor for the love of Jesus, who has shed His precious blood for each and every one of us, which will induce Him, the more readily and liberally to impart those graces with which He favored the saints. What an inducement for a soul, imbued with a sincere love of Jesus, to zealously perform active works of mercy!

The Blessed Virgin, too, will willingly ask graces for us from Christ if we assist her children. In like manner, also, will those parents, relatives and friends who are already in heaven, make intercession for us, in order that we may receive the graces necessary for the sanctification of our lives, if we endeavor to assist those who are near and dear to them. To this we may add the intercession of those very persons whom we have saved, and who may already have entered upon eternity.

This love of our neighbor is a pledge of our own salvation, in consequence of the assurance of the Holy Ghost, through St. James. Let us often reflect upon these motives with the liveliness of faith which animated St. John, and endeavor to imitate him in his love for God and for his neighbor!--Amen!




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Octave of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist
by Dom Prosper Gueranger, 1870

The Octave of the Beloved Disciple closes today: let us devoutly offer him our parting homage. We shall meet him again, during the year; for, on the 6th of May, when the Resurrection of his Divine Master is gladdening the Church with the Easter joys, we shall have the Feast of our Apostle's Confession, made before the Latin Gate;--but his grand Feast ends today, and he has done too much for us this Christmas, that we should allow this Octave Day to pass without returning him our warmest thanks. Let us begin by exciting ourselves to a great reverence for our Saint; and for this end, let us continue the considerations, we were making this day week, on the favours conferred upon him by Jesus.

The Apostolate of St. John produced a plentiful harvest among the people to whom he was sent. The Parthians received the Gospel from him, and most of the Churches of Asia Minor were founded by him. Of these latter, seven, together with their Angels, were chosen by Christ himself, to typify the several kinds of Pastors; and probably, as some have interpreted this passage of the Apocalypse, these Seven may be taken as representing the seven Ages of the Church herself. Neither must we forget, that these Churches of Asia Minor, shortly after St. John had founded them, sent Apostles into our western Europe. Thus, for example, the illustrious Church of Lyons was one of the conquests made by these early Missioners; and St. Pothinus, the first Bishop of Lyons, was a disciple of the disciple of St. John-- St. Polycarp--the Angel of the Church of Smyrna--whose Feast we shall keep a few days hence.

But St. John's apostolic labors in no wise interfered with the care, which his own filial affection and the injunctions of our Savior imposed upon him--the care of the Blessed Mother and Virgin Mary. So long as Jesus judged her visible presence on the earth to be necessary for the consolidation of his Church, so long did John enjoy the immense happiness of her society, and of being permitted to treat her as his most beloved Mother. After a certain number of years, during which he had dwelt with her in the city of Ephesus, he returned with her to Jerusalem, whence she ascended to heaven from the desert of this world, as the Church sings of her, as a pillar of smoke of aromatic spices of myrrh and frankincense. The holy Apostle had to bear this second separation, and continue preaching the Gospel until that happy day should come, when he also should ascend to that blissful region, where Jesus his Divine Friend, and Mary his incomparable Mother, were awaiting his arrival.

The Apostles, those Lights placed by the hand of Jesus himself upon the candlestick3 of the Church, died out by martyrdom one after the other, leaving St. John the sole survivor of the Twelve. His white hair, as the early Fathers tell us, was encircled with a thin plate of gold, the mark of episcopal dignity; the Churches treasured up the words which fell from his inspired lips, and considered them as their rule of Faith; and his prophecy of Patmos, the Apocalypse, proves that the future of the Church was also revealed to him. Notwithstanding all this, John was humble and simple, like the Divine Infant of Bethlehem; and one cannot read without emotion what the early writers tell us of him, how he was often seen fondling a pet bird in his venerable hands. He that had, when young, leaned his head upon the Breast of that God, whose delights are to be with the children of men--that had stood near his Lord during the Crucifixion, when all the other Apostles kept away in fear--that had seen the soldier's Spear pierce the Sacred Heart, which so loved the world-- when old age had come upon him, was for ever urging upon all he met the duty of loving one another.

His tender compassion for sinners was such as we might naturally look for from the favorite Disciple of the Redeemer; and we are not surprised at that example--which would have been wonderful in any other Saint than John--of his going in search of a young man, whom he had loved with a Father's love, and who had abandoned himself, during the Apostle's absence, to every sort of sin: old age was no hindrance to this fatiguing search, which ended in his finding the young man amidst the mountains, and leading him back to repentance.

And yet, this same gentle and loving Saint was the inflexible enemy of heresy; for heresy, by destroying Faith, poisons Charity in its very source. It is from this Apostle, that the Church has received the maxim she gives to us--of shunning heresy as we would shun a plague: If any man come to you and bring not the doctrine of Christ, receive him not into the house, nor say to him "God speed thee;" for he that saith unto him, "God speed thee," communicateth with his wicked works. St. John having, one day, entered one of the public baths, he was no sooner informed that the heresiarch Cerinthus was in the same building, than he instantly left the place, as though it were infected. The disciples of Cerinthus were indignant at this conduct of the Apostle, and endeavored to take away his life, by putting poison into the cup he used to drink from; but St. John having made the sign of the cross over the cup, a serpent was seen to issue from it, testifying both to the wickedness of his enemies, and to the divinity of Christ. This apostolic firmness in resisting the enemies of the Faith, made him the dread of the heretics of Asia; and hereby, he proved how justly he had received from Jesus the surname of Son of Thunder, a name which he shared with his Brother, James the Greater, the Apostle of Spain. The miracle we have just related has suggested the assigning to St. John, as one of his emblems, a cup with a serpent coming from it; and, in many countries, in Germany particularly, there is the custom, on the Feast of St. John, of blessing wine; and the prayer, used on the occasion, alludes to the miracle. In these same countries, there also prevails the custom of taking, at the end of meals, what is called St. John's Cup, putting, as it were, under the Saint's protection, the repast just taken.