Saturday, December 27, 2014

The 3rd Day of Christmas & St. John the Evangelist: The Disciple Jesus Loved

So the soldiers did this. But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. (John 19:25-27)

Pieta between St. John and Mary Magdalene (Pietro Perugino)
     Merry 3rd Day of Christmas!  Today is also the Feast of St. John the Evangelist, author not only of one of the Gospels, but also three New Testament letters and the Book of Revelation. St. John has traditionally been represented by an eagle because he “soars” to greater heights, theologically speaking, than the other Evangelists.  He is also known as “The Beloved Disciple” because in his Gospel he often refers to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”.   
     Many people have wondered over the centuries why John makes such a point of depicting himself as The Beloved Disciple.  On one level, of course, it must reflect his actual experience.  He mentions it frequently and pointedly enough, however, that it seems that there must be more to it.  And so there is: as Edward Sri explains [full article here]:

He represents the ideal disciple.  The beloved disciple is the one who is close to Jesus, leaning on his master’s breast at the last supper (John 13:25).  He is the one Apostle who remains with Jesus even in the face of Christ’s suffering and persecution – while the other Apostles fled, only the beloved disciple followed Jesus all the way to the cross (John 19:26).

     I want to focus on this last point, because so many people are suffering in various ways - in my home right now we are praying for a number of families who are experiencing illness, employment problems, divorce, and other hardships. Modern mental health professionals confirm the words that Charles Dickens put in the mouth of one of his characters in A Christmas Carol more than a century and a half ago: “it is at Christmastime that want is most keenly felt”.  This is a very hard time of year for our brothers and sisters who are in distress. I think the passage from John’s Gospel at the top of this post has a special import for those who find themselves standing at the Foot of The Cross in the midst of this festive season: all who join their suffering to His are his Beloved Disciples; the Mother of Jesus is your mother, and Christ your Brother suffers with you.  

May God's blessing be on you all this Christmas!