Pope St. John I


Following Jesus into the Kingdom of God:

Optional Memorial of Pope St. John I

(Acts 28:16-20,30-31; Ps11; Jn 21:20-25)


Imagine spending years in prison or under house arrest, as Paul did. Or imagine languishing in harsh conditions – including nine years in solitary confinement – as did Vietnam Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan (1982-2002). Now imagine despite your restrictions, you continue to spread the gospel of hope in Christ – just as these two did.

The readings today encourage us to proclaim the Kingdom of God and teach others about Jesus Christ, as did St. Paul and Cardinal Van Thuan. In so doing, we will follow Jesus into that Kingdom, as did St. Peter.

You might ask how St. Paul and Cardinal Van Thuan did what they did? They may have been imprisoned in body, but their relationship with Christ kept their hearts and minds free. It is striking how St. Paul was able to transform what was essentially house arrest into a catechetical formation center, continually proclaiming the Kingdom of God that Jesus came to inaugurate, and teaching one and all who came to him about Jesus of Nazareth, whom Paul experienced as Son of God, the long-awaited Messiah, and risen Lord of all creation.

Consider also the words of Cardinal Van Thuan: “All prisoners, myself included, constantly wait to be let go. However, I decided (upon arrest) that my captivity would not be merely a time of resignation but a turning point in my life. I decided I would not wait. I would live the present moment and fill it with love. When the Communists put me in the hold of the boat along with 1,500 other prisoners and moved us to the North, I said to myself, ‘Here is my cathedral, here are my people God has given me to care for, here is my mission; to ensure the presence of God among these, my despairing, miserable brothers. It is God’s will that I am here. I accept his will.’ And from that minute onwards, a new peace filled my heart and stayed with me for thirteen years.”

For his part, St. Peter, after receiving that triple forgiveness from Jesus for his three denials, was able to let go of concerns about status and standing in his relationship with Jesus, in the light of the other disciples, and simply follow Jesus by remaining open to where the Spirit would lead him. Tradition tells us that he was led to his own crucifixion on a cross, just like Jesus, but apparently upside down as he did not feel worthy to die as Jesus did.

Well known writer and speaker Paula D’Arcy puts it this way: “Many times God shows up disguised as our life.” Even if we feel hemmed in, and in situations that we can’t resolve or control, we can decide here and now to make that situation our cathedral, as did Cardinal Van Thuan. We can accept what comes our way, make the most of that present moment, and we will begin to experience God’s freedom and peace, as he did.

By keeping our eyes open, and that positive attitude, we can have a fruitful ministry, just as much from a jail cell as a pulpit, just as much from a hospital bed as in a mission field – each in our own way, proclaiming the Kingdom of God and sharing our knowledge and experience of Jesus Christ.  Has God called you to this place? Then don’t wait! You are important to God’s plan. Discover that plan and, like Cardinal Van Thuan, make your situation, whatever it might be, into your cathedral.

Pope St. John I

Today we honour St. John I. When he became pope in 523, Italy was ruled by an Arian, Theodoric the Goth, who had reversed his policy of tolerance towards Christians because of trouble between Rome and the emperor of Constantinople, Justin I. When his subjects appealed to him, Theodoric organized a delegation to negotiate with the emperor and ordered a reluctant Pope John to head the mission. Enthusiastically received, John did win some concessions, but Theodoric was not satisfied. In 526, when the delegation returned to Ravenna, the pope and his entourage were imprisoned. John died soon after, probably of starvation.

The Eucharist is nourishment for those living in the kingdom of God. May our celebration empower us to proclaim that Kingdom and help others grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ as did Peter, Paul, Cardinal Van Thuan and Pope St. John I.

Updated: May 18, 2024 — 1:48 am

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