Madonna House

Love, St. John, and I

by Renée Sylvain

Last month, I reflected on St Peter and on how looking at the fear and faith in his life helped me to deal with my own fear. This time I want to look at St. John.

Let’s take a few moments to stand at the cross with John. John was the one disciple who didn’t run away from the passion of Jesus Christ; he went to the foot of the cross and stood there right to the bitter end.

Was John not afraid? How could he go to the foot of the cross and stay there? Why didn’t he deny his relationship with Jesus like Peter did or despair like Judas or run off like the others? Was he simply tougher than all the other disciples?

It was a terrible scene, and John was watching someone he loved and with whom he shared so much, suffer and die. When I am in pain or when someone I love is in pain, I find it very hard to just be there; I want to do something, to fix it, or to run. Why was John different?

I believe fear did not control John’s actions because he knew he was “the beloved one of the Lord.”

In John’s Gospel, he always called himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” This is how he identified himself and what he knew himself to be. Somehow, John was able to receive the love of Jesus when others could not.

Then no matter what happened, even if he deserted Jesus for a while, John knew he could always come back, because he stood on the truth that he was loved by Jesus.

This identity of being “the disciple Jesus loved” became the one word he spoke over and over again to the early Church. In his letters, we read: There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear (1 Jn 4:8), and, In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his only Son into the world… (1 Jn 4:10). And we love because He first loved us (1 Jn 4:19).

Out of this identity of “Beloved” came his challenge to Christians to love one another.

Is this how I identify myself? All too often, I do not. My inner thoughts are sprinkled with the lies I tell myself about who I am and what I need to do to improve myself, to become better, more acceptable, more loved—while not accepting who I am, here and now.

All too often, the yardstick with which I measure myself grades me on how useful I have been, on whether or not I have earned the approval of “those who matter,” or on how much work I did or how much I achieved. It rates weakness and littleness as negative.

In my mind, I am never good enough, and as a consequence, others have a hard time rating high on my measuring stick as well.

Then when tough times come, or I am afraid or anxious about something, or someone I love is hurting, I lose sight of my relationship with Jesus, with the Father, and with the Holy Spirit. I forget who I truly am.

But I/we can learn to stand in this identity of being the “one whom Jesus loved.”

We can learn it from Jesus himself as well as from John.

We see it first in Jesus’ own life. At his baptism, words were spoken from heaven by the Father: This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased (Mt 3:17).

I believe this was the word Jesus lived in and rested in his whole life and from all eternity as the Son. I believe he lived and rested in this word as he entered the desert for forty days, as he traveled and taught and healed, and later as he suffered and died.

(Did John get his first glimpse of his true identity by watching Jesus pray to the Father?)

We can also see how Jesus lived with fear. In the Gospels there are many points right before the passion where he said, “my soul is troubled.”

In Gethsemane he sweated blood. This is intense fear. And over and over in that fear, Jesus chose to stand in the Father’s love. So not my will, but yours be done. (cf. Mt 26:36-44). He chose to stand in truth. He didn’t let the lies get to him or his emotions rule him.

We receive the truth of how loved we are when we gaze on the gift of Jesus on the cross. This act of love becomes the Truth that kills every lie that tells me that I am not enough. A crucifix is the place where the absolute worst that I or any person can do and the lies I tell myself, meet with the absolute best thing that God did.

I find more and more that I need to sit before the cross and let that truth wash over me. Actions speak louder than words because words I can deny, but actions stand on their own.

So there at the cross, I see that no matter what I do or how little my efforts are, his love stands and will never, ever be changed. To my “I am not enough,” Jesus says,This is my body given up for you (Lk 22:19). Then my crucified Lord brings me to the altar to feed me with himself. What a wealth of gift lies before us to receive! It is all there if we want it.

When we know and live as the beloved ones, we can stand like St. John in the truth and love of God. Then we can face any pain, any rejection, any loneliness, and any kind of lie because we stand on the truth. And nothing can overcome this truth.

Then we will be able to say with St Paul: If God is for us, who is against us? (Rm 8:31) and Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (Rm 8:35)

Part 1 of this story can be found at
restoration under Archives, March 2014.

The End