THE THIRD DAY OF CHRISTMAS
THE FEAST OF ST. JOHN
OR SHOULD IT BE FOR ANOTHER
THE BELOVED DISCIPLE?
So Peter and the other disciple set out
and made their way to the tomb. They ran
together, but the other disciple ran
faster than Peter, and reached the tomb
first, ... but he did not enter. ...
Then the disciple who had reached the tomb
first also went in; and he saw and believed.
St. John 20:3 -5, 8
Full readings: 1John 1:1-4; Psalm 97; St. John 20:2-8.
Was John the favoured disciple of Christ? Was he the beloved disciple? The one who sat next to Jesus at the last meal before His Passion and the one to who our Lord committed His beloved Mother. I don't think so. They are two different people. It is "the beloved disciple" who is closely linked with the Gospel of John. So whom do we really celebrate this day? John the son of Zebedee? or the one responsible for the Gospel. The former was one of the inner three who accompanied Christ along with James and Peter to important events such as the Transfiguration and various healings. It was John who accompanied Peter after Pentecost in proclaiming the Good News and various healings. It was probably the beloved disciple who with Andrew were disciples of John the Baptist and who directed them both to "Lamb of God". It was the beloved disciple that followed Jesus to the house of the High Priest, and took Peter with him after Our Lord is arrested in the Kidron Valley. It was also the beloved disciple who stood by the cross with Mary and Mary Magdalen and the other women. The three letters bearing John's name are also from the community of which "the beloved disciple" was the affectionate leader. They overflow with love. "God is Love", and because of this everything has its being. God became Man because He loved; Christ died because He loved; we were created because He loved. The writer insists that love is the chief commandment and main virtue of a Christian. "Love must not be a matter of theory or talk; it must be true love which shows itself in action."(1Jn 3:18) As Christ loved us, so we should love each other. Moreover the writer is adamant that it is impossible to love God if we do not love our fellow man. We make a mockery of love and of God Who is love when we say we love God and do not show love to our neighbour. The legacy is that the beloved disciple always urged his flock to love one another; and in his old age, this was his only teaching, "Little children love one another."
He could not have given us a richer source for meditation upon his feast day if he had one, than love, and especially as we celebrate these great Twelve Days of Christmas. The Word in becoming flesh is God's great gift of love to every human being. Let our great gift this Christmas also be to manifest love.
Love can only be anchored in Christ, otherwise it is shallow and has very little substance. Brother Thomas of Hales expressed this so wonderfully in this poem of adoration:
Love made firm in Christ shall live for ever;
And truly, weal or woe shall shake it never;
Night moves to day, and travel ends in rest;
Love as I say, and company the blest.
For the evangelist of the Johannine Gospel the Word incarnate also gives life; life which is no longer remote but living and lively from the Father; he and the other disciples of Jesus are a living witness to this. It is this richness of Christ's life that the Beloved Disciple share with his community. Of course what he taught, is also what His Lord desired, and is the precise reason we are celebrating Christmas. Our Lord dearly wants us to be filled by His love, that we in turn touch others with that same quality of love.
The Gospel bearing John's name has taught us that all our doings without love are nothing, so fill me with Your Spirit that my life abounds in love for You and my fellow man. Amen.