For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. – 1 Corinthians 13:12-13
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love (Jesus). – John 15:9
All about John (c. 6-100)
Today is the feast day of John, the Apostle and Evangelist, who recorded the words of Jesus, quoted above. He called himself “the beloved disciple.” I doubt that means he was more beloved than the others, but it certainly means he knew he was loved!
John the Apostle was the son of Zebedee and the younger brother of James. According to church tradition, their mother was Salome. John is one of two disciples (the other being Andrew) recounted in John 1:35–39, who upon hearing the Baptist point out Jesus as the “Lamb of God”, followed Jesus and spent the day with him, thus becoming the first two disciples called by Jesus.
Jesus referred to Zebedee’s sons as “Boanerges” (translated “sons of thunder”). A Gospel story relates how the brothers wanted to call down heavenly fire on an unhospitable Samaritan town, but Jesus rebuked them. John was also the disciple who reported to Jesus that they had “forbidden” a non-disciple from casting out demons in Jesus’ name, prompting Jesus to state that “he who is not against us is on our side.”
John is traditionally believed to live on for more than fifty years after the martyrdom of his brother James, who became the first Apostle to die a martyr’s death in AD 44.
John is always mentioned in the group of the first four apostles in the Gospels and in the Book of Acts, listed either second, third or fourth. He, along with his brother James and Peter, formed an informal triumvirate among the Twelve Apostles in the Gospels. Jesus allowed them to be the only apostles present at three particular occasions during his public ministry: the raising of Jairus’ daughter, his transfiguration, and his time of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus sent only Peter and John into the city to make the preparation for the final Passover meal.
After the arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, only Peter and John followed him into the palace of the high-priest. The “beloved disciple” alone, among the Apostles, remained near Jesus at the foot of the cross. Following the instruction of Jesus from the Cross, the beloved disciple took Mary, the mother of Jesus, into his care. Peter and John were also the only two apostles who ran to the empty tomb after Mary Magdalene bore witness to the resurrection of Jesus.
After Jesus’ Ascension and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, John, together with Peter, took a prominent part in the founding and guidance of the church. He was with Peter at the healing of the lame man at Solomon’s Porch in the Temple and he was also thrown into prison with Peter. Later, only Peter and John went to visit the newly converted believers in Samaria.
Most authorship of New Testament works are disputed. John is the author of the Gospel bearing his name, three letters and the Book of Revelation.
On the 3rd day of Christmas my true love sent to me… Three French Hens.
Today is also the third day of Christmas. Going with our spiritualization of the kid’s Christmas song, the singer’s “true love” (that would be Jesus, in this case) sent His true love (John, Paul and the rest of us disciples/friends) three “virtues” — that is, three inner motivations that dispose one to act rightly. In the Catholic catechism, faith, hope and love are the “theological” virtues.
The famous Thomas Aquinas explained that these three virtues are called theological “because they have God for their object, both in so far as by them we are properly directed to Him, and because they are infused into our souls by God alone, as also, finally, because we come to know of them only by Divine revelation in the Sacred Scriptures”
Actual French hens, in the song, are probably just everyday chickens, although fancy French hens have been bred for show since the 1800’s. In the 1600’s, however, a meal of three nice chickens would be what rich people were eating. Some interpretations of the song say the “secret” meaning has a lot to do with expensive gifts brought by the wise men: gold, frankincense and myrrh. In that case you can sing this verse as a praise song, seeing Jesus telling the world how his true love made a feast for him in the cold world, and offered her best to do it.
What do we do with this?
Pray: As the Father loves you, you love me. Thank you.
Regardless of secret meanings, the clear message is all about love: Jesus and you are one another’s beloved and you are exchanging valuable gifts. It would be terrible to keep Christmas with a discussion of the value of chickens or an assessment of one’s virtue, wouldn’t it?!
Be the beloved who got the “chickens” on whatever level you want to interpret that. Supply your own secret meaning, if you like.
Be the lover who gives the gifts. We often feel so needy, we forget our commitment to love. Why don’t you take a step out of your usual reactions to others or your usual routine and do something that gives someone some love in a way they can understand it? Don’t call attention to the fact you are doing this, just be it. Later, write in your journal about how that felt or how it didn’t.