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Sunday, May 06, 2007

St. John before the Latin Gate

A few thoughts from today's sermon...

  • Today we celebrate the ‘martyrdom’ of St. John. Already an old man, St John was possibly about 80 years old, when this incident took place. Titus the Emperor had died and was succeeded by Domitian. Titus was a gentle Emperor, so much so that he was called the ‘delights of the world’. Domitian on the contrary was an evil man and began to renew the persecution of the Christians, which we know as the ‘second persecution of the Church’. St. John had been ruling the Church in the whole of Asia and doing clearly a wonderful job. He was consoling the faithful, bringing them to the love of God through the brightness of his virtues and excellence of his doctrine, which he received from the Heart of Our Lord, as he rested his head upon His breast during the last Supper. Around the age of 80, St. John was forced to go to Rome, to be questioned about his Faith. He was dragged in chains and beaten before he arrived at the court of the Emperor Domitian. Domitian told to him that he must sacrifice before the gods or be himself sacrificed. St John was horrified that someone would ask him to do such a thing. It was impossible for him to do anything against his beloved Lord. With unshakeble faith he professed his love of Our Lord Jesus Christ and stated that he would prefer to die than commit the slightest fault against Him. Domitian ordered that he be burned alive in boiling oil and they prepared a great big pot of boiling oil and had the flames and fire as strong as possible for the oil to be extremely hot. This was all took place at the Latin Gate. According to the roman ritual, before being thrown into the boiling oil he was beaten and hit with rodes and then he was thrown alive into the boiling oil. But those who love God will suffer no harm unless God permit. When he was placed in this oil it was like a balm that healed and strenghten him and made him to feel so much the better after being in it. The executioners were horrified at this and therefore tried to increase the fire but all they did was to burn themselves but the flames had no affect on St. John. Domitian was amazed at this and although he never changed his ways he was affected by it and deceided that it was pointless trying to kill St John. Therefore he had banished him to the Isle of Patmos. This then is the origen of todays feast of St John before the Latin Gate, Domitian tried to martyre and kill him. Later on the Isle of Patmos God prepared for him the revelation of Apocalypse.
  • It was related by Clement of Alexandria that, when St John was at Ephesus, and before he was exiled to Patmos, he had taken under his care a young man of promising character, and whom he left in charge to a bishop during his own absence. But the youth took to evil courses, and went to the forest and headed a band of robbers and assassins. When John, on returning, asked for the youth and heard this account, he rent his garments, and wept with a loud voice at the faithless guardianship, and called for a horse and rode to the forest on search of the youth. When the latter as captain beheld his old master and instructor, he turned and would have fled from his presence. But St. John by the most fervent entreaties prevailed on him to stop and listen to his words. After some conference, the robber, utterly subdued, burst into tears of penitence, imploring forgiveness; and while he spoke he hid beneath his robe his right hand, which had been sullied with so many crimes. But St. John, falling on his knees before him, seized that blood-polluted hand, and kissed it and bathed it with his tears, and he remained with his reconverted brother till he had by prayers and encouraging words and affectionate exhortations reconciled him with Heaven and with himself. It was also related that two young men had sold all their possessions to follow St. John, and afterwards repented. He, perceiving their thoughts, sent them to gather pebbles and faggots, and on their return changed these into ingots of gold, and said: „Take back your riches and enjoy them on earth, since you regret having exchanged them for heaven!”

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