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Saint John, Apostle & Evangelist

27 December 2023

Saint John, Apostle & Evangelist

By Joey Belleza

Today we celebrate the feast of the Apostle John, the only apostle spared the fate of martyrdom. In another Wednesday catechesis, Pope Benedict XVI reminds us:

According to tradition, John is the “disciple whom Jesus loved,” who in the Fourth Gospel laid his head against the Teacher’s breast at the Last Supper (cf. Jn 13: 23), stood at the foot of the Cross together with the Mother of Jesus (cf. Jn 19: 25) and lastly, witnessed both the empty tomb and the presence of the Risen One himself (cf. Jn 20: 2; 21: 7).

We know that this identification is disputed by scholars today, some of whom view him merely as the prototype of a disciple of Jesus. Leaving the exegetes to settle the matter, let us be content here with learning an important lesson for our lives: the Lord wishes to make each one of us a disciple who lives in personal friendship with him.

To achieve this, it is not enough to follow him and to listen to him outwardly: it is also necessary to live with him and like him. This is only possible in the context of a relationship of deep familiarity, imbued with the warmth of total trust. This is what happens between friends; for this reason Jesus said one day: “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends…. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (Jn 15: 13, 15).

Friendship with Jesus is a theme which Pope Benedict often emphasized; indeed, he made this point in his homily at the 2005 Mass for the Election of the Pope. In that homily, he recalled Cicero’s old characterization of friendship: idem velle atque idem nolle—having the same likes and dislikes. However, Christian friendship takes the Ciceronian conception and deepens it—wishing and desiring the same things means a communion of wills. Our wills are called to be so united to Christ that even in moments of struggle, we can still say “thy will be done.” Like Saint John, we must always rest our head on the breast of the Lord—upon his Sacred Heart—to unite our wills ever closer to his.