December 27 is the feast day of St. John the Evangelist. St. John is known for many things, most notably:
1) For authoring five books of the Bible, including one of the four Gospels and Revelation.
2) For being called “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 20:2) or “the beloved disciple”.
3) For being in Jesus’ inner circle along with his brother James and Peter.
4) For reclining on the chest of Jesus at the Last Supper.
5) For being the only disciple that stayed with Mary at the foot of the cross.
6) For being the disciple to whom the care of Mary was entrusted after the crucifixion of Jesus.
7) For being called “The Apostle of Love” for his extensive writing on this virtue.
Interestingly, St. John is also known for something else more recent to our modern times . . . for his strong connection to the Sacred Heart of Jesus devotion. About 400 years before the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus became widely popular through St. Margaret Mary Alocoque, two nuns at a monastery in 13th century Germany, St. Gertrude the Great and St. Mechtilde, had a special devotion to the Sacred Heart.
In St. Gertrude the Great’s book, Herald of Divine Love, she speaks of a mystical experience she had with Jesus and St. John the Evangelist:
“Once on the feast of St. John, the beloved disciple, St. Gertrude exerted herself during the Matins to praise the disciple whom Jesus loved above the rest of His Apostles and lo! our Savior appeared to her, accompanied by this dear saint, whom He gave to her for a special protector. St. John spoke to St. Gertrude most kindly, instructed her regarding many mysteries and bestowed upon her precious graces…”
St. John invited St. Gertrude to rest with him on the chest of Jesus just as he had done at the Last Supper. After doing so, St. Gertrude and St. John entered into a dialogue about what they had just experienced in the intimacy they shared with Jesus’ Heart:
St. Gertrude: “Well-beloved of the Lord, did these harmonious beatings which rejoice my soul also rejoice thine when thou didst repose during the Last Supper on the bosom of the Savior?”
St. John: “Yes, I heard them, and my soul was penetrated with their sweetness even to its very center.”
St. Gertrude: “Why, then, hast thou spoken so little in thy Gospel of the loving secrets of the Heart of Jesus?”
St. John: “My mission was to write of the Eternal Word . . . but the language of the blissful pulsations of the Sacred Heart is reserved for latter times , that the time-worn world, grown cold in the love of God, may be warmed up by the hearing of such mysteries”.
On the same day (the feast of St. John the Evangelist) four centuries later in 1673, Jesus appeared to St. Margaret Mary and showed her His Sacred Heart displaying His Divine Love in the form of flames. He said to her, “My Heart is so full of love for men that It can no longer contain the flames of Its burning love. I must discover to men the treasures of My Heart and save them from perdition.”
So, we see that not only can the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus trace its roots to the Gospel of St. John, but also that St. John himself, as a saint in heaven, is closely associated with the promulgation of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in our modern times, when the world is “grown cold in the love of God.”
Because of St. John’s connection to the Sacred Heart of Jesus revelation through St. Gertrude and St. Margaret Mary, this feast day is a great occasion to give an image of the Sacred Heart a place of prominence and devotion in your home. For instructions on how to enthrone an image of the Sacred Heart in your home, please visit the Sacred Heart Apostolate. You can find images of the Sacred Heart for the enthronement from The Catholic Company here.