The Beloved One

The Beloved One

Is John the most arrogant of all the disciples?

Throughout the Gospel of John, essentially whenever John refers to himself, he doesn’t use his name. Instead, he says “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” At first glance, it might seem like pure arrogance, pride over the fact that John was one of the “inner three” Jesus drew particularly close to Himself.

Or it might be something else entirely.

When I discuss this title with my students, they are a bit surprised that John refers to himself as the beloved disciple. But then I try to draw their attention to the other claims John could have made.

John, the only disciple at the foot of the cross.
John, the one who leaned his head near the heart of Jesus and sat next to Him at the Last Supper.
John, the disciple who arrived first to the tomb after the Resurrection (because he ran faster than Peter).
John, the youngest of the disciples.
John, the one to whom Jesus entrusted His mother.

What do we see instead? John, the one whom Jesus loved.

There are several unique roles that John played, but when writing the account of Jesus, he chooses to simply be known by the fact that Jesus loved him. More than everything else, the love of Jesus is the most precious to John. He is the beloved disciple.

Contrary to what we might think initially, his belovedness is not in conflict with anyone else’s belovedness. It isn’t John, the one Jesus loved more than all others or to the exclusion of all others. It is simply: John, beloved by Jesus.

It is a title we could all claim.

Is that what I see first, though: my belovedness?

Continue reading “The Beloved One”

Growing a "Yes" Within

Confession: I don’t always enjoy praying the Rosary.

In fact, I often avoid it because it takes me so long to pray it by myself and I want to spend my prayer time doing other things.  That might be borderline blasphemous to some Catholics, but that is honestly how I feel sometimes.

Last night, however, I decided to pray the Rosary.  I told myself that I could stop and pray with a given mystery if I felt drawn to it.  It was a minimal-commitment Rosary, if you will.

The joyful mysteries were the mysteries for the day.  I tried to mentally enter into the mysteries: what if I was Mary and experienced the Annunciation or needed to travel to Bethlehem for a census?  The interesting thing was that instead of Jesus being who was developing within me, it was a “Yes.”

Before prayer I had gone for a run and part of the time I was thinking, “Lord, help Your will to be my will.”  So as I reflected on these mysteries, I thought of this desire to follow God’s will as a “Yes” that is grown within oneself.  This “Yes” was what Mary spoke at the Annunciation–a “Yes” that took on flesh and entered into humanity, but a “Yes” nonetheless, one that she said with her whole self, every day.

The “Yes” does not lead to immediate results, however,  Mary’s “Yes” took nine months of quiet growth before it was born into the world.  Similarly, our “Yes” may not be evident after the first day.  It might take months to begin to show.  But when it does, it will noticeably transform us, even though it might remain hidden.  We might labor to give birth to this “Yes” with our whole selves.  But what struck me was the presentation in the temple.  Even after we have grown this “Yes” within us and labored for it to bear fruit, the results are still not our own.  We present the fruit of our “Yes” to the Lord to do with as He wills.  Nothing remains our own.

After giving ourselves to this “Yes” and presenting it back to the Lord, we might still struggle to understand and find this “Yes” in the confusion of our lives.  Mary had to seek after the “Yes” in accepting to become Theotokos–the God-bearer, she looked for Jesus in the temple, and she stood sorrowfully taking in this “Yes” hanging on the cross.  It was a “Yes” that filled her entire life, one of complete obedience to the will of God.

My reflection on the joyful mysteries of the Rosary filled me with a renewed desire to nurture this “Yes” within myself.  Not in one area of my life, but in all areas.  Without even thinking about it too much, when I imagined this “Yes” filling my life, I knew it would be accompanied by an undeniable and nearly uncontainable joy.

A “Yes” to the Lord involves sacrifice, that is true, but it leads us to a deeper peace and joy than only saying yes to our own will.  It fills us and gives true life.

But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!”  (Luke 11:28)

Grace-filled Moments

 I stepped out of the humble house and into the early morning air.  Although I didn’t know what time it was, I knew that is was early despite the warm sun that was steadily filling the village with light.  Embracing the time of solitude, I walked to a hammock and prayed morning prayer, with pauses to watch the water crash on the rocky coastline.

Perfection. 

No, perfection was when I finished prayer and spotted a little boy who was creeping around, casting side-long glances at me.  After going inside to get my camera, I had a mini photo shoot with him and his friends.  They were adorable.  One moment they were posing for pictures and the next they were crowded around my camera, only to double over with delight as they saw themselves on the little screen. 

Or perhaps perfection was the feeling of being loved and acceptable absolutely as we entered a village unannounced and were immediately given food and shelter.  Each meal was the best that they could offer–we even had lobster for breakfast one time.  It was being invited to a captain’s house and hearing him explain that he would have been at Mass the night before but that he had been out in the water and didn’t know about it. 

Or perhaps it was the ride in the rickety old boat that seemed ill-suited for six people and backpacks.  It was a simple boat with a motor strapped on the back that cruised over impressive swells.  The water sprayed my face, the sun kissed my fair skin, and my excitement was mixed with silent prayers that we wouldn’t sink.  But then someone spotted a dolphin and soon after I viewed a wild dolphin racing in the water.

Or perhaps perfection was the joy of hiking through the coastal landscape–crawling over rocks, racing up steep inclines, stopping to enjoy the glories of coconut water while sweat ran down my face and back in rivulets.  The moments of pausing to dip our bottles into the cool springs so that we could filter the water to be suitable for our weak stomachs.  Walking to villages to which no cars can arrive simply to bring the best one could offer–Christ present in the Eucharist.  Watching the people unlock their churches with a sense of pride that is difficult to find in the “developed” world and then hearing them spread the word throughout the village that a priest was in their midst.   

Perhaps, in my mind, Honduras is perfection in every aspect.  I understand that the country is going through difficult times, that the homicide rate is one of the highest in the world, and that poverty is abundant.  But I experienced so much grace and perfection in Honduras.  The Lord blessed me with being able to go to Honduras twice for spring break mission trips in college.  As I saw the poverty of the people, I saw a simplicity that made my heart ache.  It made me want to return home and give all of my extra possessions away.  It made me want to become a missionary after college.  And right now it fills me with a desire to return to Honduras someday. 

Honduras has been on my mind lately because in just a few days another mission trip will be launched to that beautiful country and my heart aches to be with them.  Yet I can go back and embrace the memories and for a moment, I am in that grace-filled place again, walking through the coastal land, eating fresh seafood, celebrating Mass with people who manage to praise God in the midst of adversity. 

Heaven is indescribable.  I like to think that Heaven will be like all of the beautiful, grace-filled moments of my life linked together…and then more.  It will be the sum of beautiful adoration hours, hikes in foreign countries, the smell of incense, the feeling of a bed after a long day, the delirious joy of the Holy Spirit, the thankfulness of a student, the embrace of a cloistered sister, the glory of a sun-bathed afternoon, every delightful food, and the reunion of each beautiful friend…and more. 

In the midst of times that seem less grace-filled, it is nice to be able to go back and re-live some moments where I knew the Lord was working and present.  Yet not to get lost in them.  Simply to experience the joy and then return to the present with a renewed vigor to pray for God’s kingdom to come now…in me and in this world.