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The Quotable St. John

27 Dec

St. John the EvangelistIn honor of today’s feast of St. John the Evangelist, I thought I would devote a “top ten” list today to my favorite quotes from St. John’s Gospel.

I was going to open it up to all five books of the Bible written by St. John, so that I could include favorite quotes from his epistles (e.g., 1 John 3:1) and the Book of Revelation (e.g., Revelation 21:1, 4). However, the magnificent Gospel according to John provides more than enough material to work with! Here’s my list, not in any particular order:

(1) And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. (John 1:14) What a profound teaching on the Incarnation! And I’m pleased that in my children’s schools they pray the Angelus daily, which includes this beautiful verse.

(2) For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16) This verse gives us the motive for the Incarnation, that in the words of the early Fathers of the Church, God became man so that man could participate in the very life of God. Wow!

(3) Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53) The entire Bread of Life discourse in John 6 is fantastic. I chose this verse as it vividly teaches that the Eucharist sustains us in our journey to God. I could easily have chosen the response of St. Peter to Our Lord’s words: Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life . . .” (John 6:68).

(4) The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10) This is part of Our Lord’s “Good Shepherd” discourse. What′s not to love about a God who is our good shepherd, who came to give us abundant life? Baaa!

(5) Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:24) This may be my favorite verse in the entire Bible. Dostoevsky said that his classic, 1,000-page novel Brothers Karamazov is but an artistic reflection on this profound verse. And the next verse continues the paradox: “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:25)

(6) A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. (John 13:34) Not only is this a powerful verse in its own right, but I think this teaching of Our Lord is one that really resonated with John and sustained him for decades. Later in life, he is reputed to have told his disciples over and over again: ”Children, love one another.”

(7) I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5) I love this verse because it reminds me that apostolic fruitfulness is entirely dependent upon our connectedness to Christ through prayer and the sacraments.

(8) “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (John 17:20-21) The ecumenical imperative that we encounter today is rooted in these words of the Lord that are recorded only in St. John’s Gospel. God is one. The Church is one. Christians still have a little work to do!

(9) 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. (John 19:26-27) This one is especially dear to me, since today is the feast day of my son Samuel John. I gave him that name because I wanted him to be a “beloved disciple” who welcomes Mary into his heart and, one day, into his home (or rectory).

(10) When they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. (John 19:33-34) This one may leave some readers scratching their head. I marvel at the way in which all the prophecy comes together in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. And here in particular the Church has always interpreted the blood and water flowing from the side of Christ as symbolizing the life-giving sacraments, as indeed the Church in a sense was “born” when His side was pierced (see Catechism, no. 766).

And btw, honorable mention goes to:

John 3:31–He must increase, but I must decrease.

John 16:33–I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.

John 20:22-23–And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Merry Christmas, everyone!