Monday, May 18, 2009

MAY 18 SAINT JOHN I, POPE, MARTYR

“St. John I"
by Artaud de Montor,
Alexis François, 1911
MAY 18

SAINT JOHN I, POPE, MARTYR


Biographical Information about St. John I [1]

Readings for the Memorial of St. John I [2]

Readings and Commentary:

FIRST READING
Revelation 3:14b, 20-22

"'The Amen, the faithful and true witness,
the source of God's creation, says this:

""'Behold, I stand at the door and knock.
If anyone hears my voice and opens the door,
then I will enter his house and dine with him
and he with me.
I will give the victor the right to sit with me on my throne,
as I myself first won the victory
and sit with my Father on his throne.

""'Whoever has ears ought to hear
what the Spirit says to the churches.""'
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Commentary on
Rv 3:14b, 20-22

St. John addresses the Church of Laodicea
[3]. His principle thrust is the lack of zeal for the faith they have shown. In this passage, the vision of St. John conveys the idea of the Holy Spirit reaching out to the Church, asking her to be strong and valorous in faith, inviting them to share God’s ultimate victory.

CCC: Rv 3:14 1065
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RESPONSORIAL PSALM
Psalm 23:1-3a, 4, 5, 6

R. (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.


The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.

R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.


Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.

R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.


You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.


Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
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Commentary on
Ps 23:1-3a, 4, 5, 6

Psalm 23 is one of the most familiar songs in the entire psalter. “God's loving care for the psalmist is portrayed under the figures of a shepherd for the flock (Psalm 23:1-4) and a host's generosity toward a guest (Psalm 23:5-6). The imagery of both sections is drawn from traditions of the exodus (Isaiah 40:1149:10Jeremiah 31:10).” [i] While the theme of Shepherd is mentioned in the first strophe, the psalm really speaks to the peace given to those who follow the Lord and place their trust in Him, even into the “dark valley.”


The reference in the third strophe above: “'You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes' occurs in an exodus context in Psalm 78:19. As my enemies watch: my enemies see that I am God's friend and guest. Oil: a perfumed ointment made from olive oil, used especially at banquets (Psalm 104:15Matthew 26:7Luke 7:3746John 12:2).” [i]

CCC: Ps 68:6 238
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GOSPEL
Luke 22:24-30

An argument broke out among the Apostles
about which of them should be regarded as the greatest.
Jesus said to them,
"The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them
and those in authority over them are addressed as 'Benefactors';
but among you it shall not be so.
Rather, let the greatest among you be as the youngest,
and the leader as the servant.
For who is greater:
the one seated at table or the one who serves?
Is it not the one seated at table?
I am among you as the one who serves.
It is you who have stood by me in my trials;
and I confer a kingdom on you,
just as my Father has conferred one on me,
that you may eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom;
and you will sit on thrones
judging the twelve tribes of Israel."
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Commentary on
Lk 22:24-30

This argument among the disciples is timed ironically in that it occurs in the upper room during the feast of the last supper, following the Lord’s announcement that one of his closest friends would betray him. Jesus proceeds to provide the disciples with straightforward teaching about the servant role they were to exemplify. He then promises all of them that, because they will have stood by him, they will also be with him in heaven.

CCC: Lk 22:26-27 894; Lk 22:27 1570; Lk 22:28-30 787; Lk 22:29-30 551; Lk 22:30 765
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Reflection:

Pope St. John I sat in Peter’s Chair during the 4th Century (523-526). Not much is known of his rule as pontiff except his fidelity to the Trinitarian ideals of faith in opposition to Arianism which was the first of the great Christological Heresies. It was this fidelity to the true nature and essence of God that caused him to travel to Constantinople (the first Pope to do so) and to crown Julian emperor. This was seen as a threat to Theodoric, King of the Ostrogoths and of Italy who, according to historical records, was deeply suspicious of political intrigue and a believer in the Arian philosophical approach to Christianity. He had St. John I kidnapped as he returned from crowning Julian (who also attacked Arian thought) and was imprisoned in Ravenna where he soon died of starvation and fatigue.

His heroic valor may seem, in these modern times to be lessened in significance since the cause for which he was martyred – the defense against Arianism – has long since seemed to have been forgotten. In a sense it is like a Veteran’s Day celebration during time of peace. We forget the sacrifice of those who secured our freedom when that freedom was at risk. In order to truly appreciate St. John I we must understand that Arianism attacked the very person of Christ. It tore down the very nature of our Triune God and denied the unity of persons of which it is comprised.

Today we remember St. John I, a hero of the Church’s battle to proclaim the truth. His fidelity and leadership at a time when many would have created a polytheistic model of faith preserved the truth for us and saved our understanding of God’s sacrifice of his only Begotten Son. We ask for his prayers today; may we to be faithful to the precepts of our faith in the face of opposition and proclaim Christ crucified, risen, and ascended to the world.

Pax

[1] The picture used is “St. John I" by Artaud de Montor, Alexis François, 1911
[2] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.
[3] Laodicea: ca. forty miles southeast of Philadelphia and ca. eighty miles east of Ephesus, a wealthy industrial and commercial center, with a renowned medical school. It exported fine woolen garments and was famous for its eye salves. It was so wealthy that it was proudly rebuilt without outside aid after the devastating earthquake of A.D. 60/61.

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