Feast of St. John the Evangelist. December 27, 2018.
1Jn 1:1-4; Jn 20:1,2-8
Becoming Jesus’ beloved disciples today
St. John the Evangelist refers to himself in his Gospel and Epistles as the “beloved disciple” or the “disciple whom Jesus loved.” His way of self-reference and his very way of life gives us valuable insights into how we too can rightly take our place as Jesus’ beloved disciple today.
Here are some ways in which we can learn from him and become beloved disciples of Jesus today:
First, be more focused on God’s love for us rather than our fidelity to God. For St. John, God is the Lover, and he is the beloved who experiences and receives divine love; he saw God as the one who loves first and initiates the love relationship, “For God is love… In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son as expiation for our sins.”(1Jn 4:8,10)” We cannot be Jesus’ beloved disciples when we have not fully accepted His love for us as something that we can neither merit nor earn. We also cannot be His beloved disciples when our focus is on our personal sanctity, achievements, or successes in the spiritual life or apostolate instead of being grounded first and foremost on His constant love for us irrespective of our faithfulness or lack thereof.
Secondly, Jesus’ beloved disciples trust in Him completely that they are ready to detach themselves from everything and person for His sake. The beloved disciple trusted Jesus completely even before he saw any miracle; he was ready and willing to leave all things to follow Him, “They (James and John) left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and followed Him.”(Mk 1:20) As His beloved disciples, we must have radical trust in Him and not in ourselves, persons or created things.
Thirdly, we become Jesus’ beloved disciple when we strive to make Christ known to others even at great personal risks. Saints John and Peter were not cowed by the threats of the Jewish elders and scribes who warned them not to speak about Jesus. They Apostles replied, “For we cannot but speak of what we have heard and seen.”(Acts 4:20) The beloved disciple was willing to be exiled by Emperor Domitian to Patmos as the price for proclaiming Christ. We too as beloved disciples cannot be satisfied with a “me-and-my-personal-Jesus-alone” spirituality that completely neglects others who do not know Jesus or His teaching.
Fourthly, we are Jesus’ beloved disciples when we strive to bring others into communion with Him without any form of discrimination against them. St. John writes, “What we have heard and seen we proclaim now to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us.” With deep conviction that Jesus has loved and accepted them just as they are, Jesus’ beloved disciples have no time for rivalry or to exclude others from participating in that communion with God in Jesus Christ. On the contrary, they are moved by that gift of divine love to invite all people to communion with God in their community of faith by their words and actions. Truly beloved disciples find their joy primarily in pursuing deeper communion with God for themselves and for others, “We are writing this so that our joy may be complete.”
Fifthly, Jesus’ beloved disciples know that His love for them is often mediated to them mysteriously through people. The beloved disciple saw divine love being offered to him through the mediation of Mary as Jesus was dying on the cross on Calvary and spoke to him, “Son, Behold your mother.” He saw in Mary another gift of divine love to Him. What a blessing of divine love to be given the Mother of God as your own mother? On her part, Mary will share with the beloved disciple her own victorious faith that never doubted what the Angel Gabriel said to her at the Annunciation, “Mary, you have found favor with God.”
Lastly, beloved disciples of Jesus are quick to believe what is revealed to them by God in and through life events. Seeing an empty tomb with burial clothes, St. John “saw and believed.” Love was mediated to him through this event just as it was offered to him through Mary at Calvary. As beloved disciples of Jesus, we know that we can trust Him not to deceive us or lead us astray, but to reveal Himself and His will to us. This allows us to quickly embrace and hold on to His words and promises.
Why is it important that we become Jesus’ beloved disciples today? We look at ourselves and we see our own sins, the scandalous sins of our clergy and hierarchy in the Church and we wonder if we are truly Jesus’ beloved disciples today. We easily place our trust in creatures. We become so attached to persons and things that we become reluctant to follow Jesus wholeheartedly. We see many forms of Christian persecution today that compel us to keep our faith in Jesus as a purely private affair and inadmissible in public discourse. We see so many cases of discrimination and violence against the most vulnerable and helpless infants in the womb of their mothers as they are denied the right to life. We need hearts that are filled with love enough to recognize the gift of divine love that is being offered to us through people and events, often unlikely and difficult people and painful events. We see around us a tendency to doubt or question God’s revealed will and plan for us. It is so easy for us to seek for joy in earthly things and not in that fullness of communion with God that we are called to.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are already the beloved disciples for whom Christ died on the cross. We are already His beloved disciples through baptism that makes us God’s own children, beneficiaries of His unconditional love. We are already the beloved disciples who have the great privilege of resting our heads close to the heart of Jesus in the Eucharist that we celebrate today just as St. John did at the Last Supper. We are already the beloved disciples who have also received Mary as our own mother too. All that we need to do is to follow the example of St. John the Evangelist and take Mary as our mother too and allow her to help us live our lives today as Jesus’ truly beloved disciples so that our joy too may be complete.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!