Tuesday, December 27, 2011

"A friend is the one who comes in when the whole world has gone out. "

For prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God. – St Teresa of Avila

Gospel text (Jn 20,2-8):
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.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.

John is traditionally identified with the Beloved Disciple (the other disciple whom Jesus loved - Jn: 20 - 4 ), on whose testimony today’s Gospel is based (Jn 21:24). John testified that he surely could not help but speak of what he had heard and seen (Acts 4:19-20). Everything within John found joy in sharing his experience of Jesus' love with others (1 Jn 1:3-4). On this third day of Christmas, Jesus gives us the opportunity to contemplate the life of St. John.

As I thought about this readings on the feast of St. John, a startling question hit me. What would it have been like to have Jesus for a best friend? A lot of people say this, especially if they are running for office but John really WAS Jesus’ best friend from what we can tell from the Scriptures.

Since Jesus was fully human, he must have needed the comfort and support of a friend he could trust and relax with just like the rest of us. Was that John’s role? Did John tease Jesus and make him laugh? Did he just listen when things were tense? Obviously they prayed together but did they relax over a glass or wine? I’m trying to envision Jesus and John as human pals instead of marble statues.

What kind of a guy was John that gave him a unique place among the Disciples? What qualities can we emulate to become friends of Jesus?

First and probably most important, there’s loyalty. When the others deserted Jesus on the cross, John was there, taking care of Mary. Jesus must have known that he could count on John under the worst of conditions. Like John, if we want to be friends of Jesus, we must be faithful and care for others. That kind of faithfulness can take courage such as John exhibited in refusing to desert Jesus when others did.

I’m also intrigued by how John handled the jealousy that the other apostles must have felt towards him because of his friendship with Jesus. These, after all, were men that fought for position at the Last Supper. We can be pretty sure that John never had to push for his position but he already had it. Did John just ignore any heat he took from the others or did they all just recognize his role? Was John one of those seemingly perfect people that others can’t really resent despite themselves?

We get a feel for John’s wish to share his friendship with Jesus in the first reading in which he invites us into fellowship with “the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” There was nothing selfish in this friendship – rather a desire to share it with generations to come. While we can’t hang out with Jesus as John did, we can emulate his qualities that will help us find friendship with Jesus.

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