The Beloved Disciple
William Penn said: “If we are but sure the end is right, we are too apt to gallop over all bounds to compass it; not considering the lawful ends may be very unlawfully attained.”
Today’s gospel reading is the conclusion of St. John’s gospel on the life of Jesus. St. John says: ‘There are also many other things that Jesus did; but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written,” (v. 25). In other words, St. John, like the other evangelists, has chosen only those signs about Jesus that were suited to his purpose in writing. His purpose in writing his gospel is to show that Jesus is God; that God is love; and that to His followers Jesus offers His divine life. We may also say that in spite of scientific discoveries and inventions, we will continue to encounter the mysteries in our world especially in our lives and faith. It is because this world bears forever the imprint of God the Creator.
Somebody had said that these words are testimonies in favor of the Church’s reliance on Sacred Tradition. The principle of ‘sola scriptura,’ which maintains that the bible is the only source of our Christian belief, is paradoxically not upheld by the Sacred Scripture itself. We must look to the patrimony of the Church especially her history, the witness of the first few centuries, her liturgy and pious practices in order to tap all the richness of our belief. For this we must rely on a living reality which enjoys the continuous support of Christ, through the action of the Holy Spirit. This is the living tradition of the Catholic Church, entrusted by Christ to her legitimate pastors, the successors of the Twelve Apostles.
But why do we compare ourselves with others? Why we want to be better off than our neighbor? No wonder why we have so many rivals and enemies. Peter and John are both called as disciples of Jesus and each is given a different task to fulfil. But what is intriguing is when Peter questions John’s role. He asks Jesus: “Lord, what about him?” Jesus said to him: “What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours? You follow me,” (vv. 21-22).
A priest said in his homily that worrying about ourselves in comparison with others, even in questions of holiness and apostolic ability, is a mistake. The Lord prefers that we mind our own business, the business of growing in our friendship with Him and in our dedication to the apostolate. Harnessing the inspiring examples others give us should push us forward to greater holiness and self-giving. At the same time, we have to learn how to rejoice in others’ triumphs, seeing God alive in them, working in them, loving them. Jealousy and competition insinuate themselves into our view of others’ work, but if we build our faith-vision, seeing God in them, we rejoice.
Like St. Peter, Jesus tells us to follow Him instead of comparing ourselves with others in terms of holiness and apostolate. And at the end let us remember that at the close of our lives the question will not be (Nathan C. Schaeffer):
“How much have you gotten?” but “How much have you given?”
Not “How much have you won?” but “How much have you done?”
Not “How much have you saved?” but “How much have you sacrificed?”
It will be “How much have you loved and served,” not “How much were you honored?”