The Beloved Disciple

Wednesday, December 27, 2023
Saint John the Apostle and Evangelist—Feast
Third Day of the Octave of Christmas
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On the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we do not know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. John 20:1–3

It’s interesting that Saint John refers to himself as the disciple “whom Jesus loved.” Of course, Jesus loved all people. He loved all of the disciples. But in John’s Gospel, this unique title of the beloved disciple is given to John.

Saint John the Apostle may be understood as this beloved disciple for many reasons. First, recall the special closeness and affection John shows Jesus at the Last Supper when John reclined next to Him. Recall, also, that it was John alone who stood at the foot of the Cross with Jesus’ mother and that Jesus entrusted His mother to John and John to His mother. And note in the passage above that it was John who first ran to the empty tomb as soon as Mary Magdalene revealed her discovery to him. Furthermore, many scholars believe John to be the youngest disciple. And as a younger disciple, he may have received special fatherly-like attention from our Lord.

However, John may also be understood as the beloved disciple for another reason. Simply put, this is how John saw himself as he wrote his Gospel account. John may have done so because telling the story of Jesus’ life was deeply personal to him. His own love and affection for his Lord was the central and most consuming passion of his soul. And it appears that as John speaks of Jesus, and of his own encounters with Jesus, John was compelled to prayerfully ponder the holy and spiritual love that Jesus had for him. Thus, it appears that John could not speak of his encounters with our Lord without also identifying the divine love that united them. It’s as if every time his Gospel story spoke of an encounter he had with Jesus, John was overwhelmed by the simple fact that Jesus, the Son of God, the Messiah, knew him and loved him personally. And so he was compelled to state that fact over and over.

In this case, it’s quite beautiful, on a spiritual level, to ponder John’s soul. He was clearly a man who was deeply touched by God in the Person of Jesus. And after Jesus ascended into Heaven, it appears that John’s holy love for Jesus only grew. As he went forth as an Apostle, preaching about the salvation that comes through his Savior and dear friend, he clearly grew closer to our Lord day by day. When John wrote his Gospel toward the end of his life, his heart was clearly aflame with divine love as he was intensely looking forward to being fully united with his Lord in Heaven.

As we honor this unique and holy Apostle, reflect, today, upon the simple truth that you are also invited to share in the holy and intimate love shared by Jesus and Saint John. Ponder the fact that our Lord also loves you with perfect charity, intimacy and totality. If you can gaze upon the love in the heart of this beloved disciple, then you, too, can share in that love and become a beloved disciple yourself.

My beloved Lord, the love You bestowed upon the disciple John was perfect in every way. After Your ascension into Heaven, You continued to deepen Your relationship with him, drawing him ever closer to Your Sacred Heart. Please pour forth upon me that same love and draw me into Your Heart so that I, too, will become Your beloved disciple. Saint John, pray for us.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Featured images above: Saint John with the Eagle, via flickr

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