Saint for the day: John the Apostle (6 – 100)
1 John 1:1-4 – Psalm 97 – John 20:1-a – & 2:8
The images that come to us on this feast of “The Beloved Disciple” are those of one who was able to understand what the Lord’s greatest commandment – “Love one another” really meant. He chose the better part and was content to recline on the bosom of the Lord. From this close encounter he was able to comprehend the inner core of Jesus’ message and he was able to soar to incredible heights of mystical knowledge. John’s symbol, the eagle gives us a sharper view of who he was in contrast to some artists who would portray him as being effeminate.
These “Octave Days of Christmas” give us a wide variety of saints to contemplate. Saints, not only those who were close to Jesus and walked with him but later saints who didn’t have the physical contact with Jesus but were still able to connect with “the Word made flesh” and share in that same intimacy that today’s St. John enjoyed.
It’s interesting that this feast of the beloved disciple sends me way back to my early days in grammar school where the good sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary first brought the gift of faith to us. They taught us to bow our heads whenever we said the name of Jesus or Mary – a practice that was carried even a step further in my early days as a Dominican – where we didn’t just bow our heads, but we bowed our entire bodies any time those names were mentioned in the liturgy. Sad that, today, many of those “reverences” are not even thought about. The other side, however, of the sisters teaching in regard to today’s feast, was based on that passage that we just heard in today’s readings, “the disciple, the one Jesus loved, got to the tomb first but didn’t go in…” This was an occasion for the sisters to teach us respect for our elders – which is a good thing to teach young children but misses the important part of this passage from John’s gospel: “… then, this disciple went in, saw the linen wrappings folded up … and believed!”
Respect for the holy names of Jesus and Mary are important as is a respect for our elders but the most important point of this Gospel passage is that this beloved apostle – who loved Jesus in His life – now could understand what was most important to believe and is summed up in the world’s most frequently referenced scripture passage: John 3:16 “God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son that whoever believes in him might not be lost but have eternal life.” This is what John believed and what made him to be a saint. Can we, also, look into the empty tombs of our lives and still believe in the God who so loved the world and us? Amen!