There are few saints more esteemed than St. John the Evangelist. He was one of Jesus’ closest disciples; he witnessed the transfiguration; he stayed at the foot of the Cross when the other disciples fled; he took care of Mary in her old age; and he did much else besides. Jesus revealed truth in abundance to this contemplative apostle, who, in the words of the liturgy, “spread the words of life through all the world.” The sublimity of his Gospel has made him the favorite of theologians throughout the ages. We would all do well to read the commentaries of Sts. Augustine, John Chrysostom, Cyril, and Thomas Aquinas on John, but in the meantime, St. Jerome sums up the doctrine of this saint in his commentary on Galatians:
The blessed John the Evangelist lived in Ephesus until extreme old age. His disciples could barely carry him to church and he could not muster the voice to speak many words. During individual gatherings he usually said nothing but, “Little children, love one another.” The disciples and brothers in attendance, annoyed because they always heard the same words, finally said, “Teacher, why do you always say this?” He replied with a line worthy of John: “Because it is the Lord’s commandment and if it alone is kept, it is sufficient.”
Simply to love one another is sufficient. Our lives must be about love; nothing else is worth any trouble. Through the Church and the sacraments, love brings us to God: “he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 Jn 4:16). Our love for God must be paramount, but since God needs nothing, we are meant to show love principally to our neighbors. In his providence, God put each of us in the lives of many other people with the desire that we do good to them. There is no shortage of ways to show love. It’s often very simple—giving from our abundance is loving, smiles are loving, putting down the phone when around others is loving, praying an Our Father for deceased friends and relatives is loving, changing diapers is loving, keeping the commandments is loving, coaching t-ball is loving, forgiveness is loving.
Let us love; and let us never tire of hearing St. John’s advice, “Little children, love one another.” If our lives are built around love, we shall forever abide in God.
Image: Valentin de Boulogne, The Last Supper