The Role of John

3 June 2006: Saturday of the 7th Week of Easter
John 21, 20-25: The Role of John

In the previous passage, we hear about Peter’s assignment of shepherding Jesus’ lambs and sheep. And we hear of Paul proclaiming the Gospels in Gentile territory. Today, we hear about John’s role in the Church. John was to be Jesus’ primary witness to many generations to come. The passage is quite clear that John must have lived long --- in fact, many believed that John will keep on living until Jesus comes again. Because of his long life, John can say to many generations, “I saw these things, and I know that they are true”. He authenticates the teachings of Paul and Peter and the other disciples as well.

For many of us today who are fired with the desire to know Christ and thus seek our vocations and our roles in the greater scheme of things, John’s claim remains true. Our faith is measured by the depth and quality of our personal and intimate knowledge of Christ. St. Ignatius of Loyola affirms in the Spiritual Exercises, that the depth of our knowledge of Christ moves us to love him more dearly and thus follow Him more authentically and closely. John’s claim of knowing Jesus springs from his love for Him --- he calls himself, the beloved. It is he who recognizes Christ. At the tomb in the Resurrection, he was the first to believe He has risen and at the Sea of Galilee, he first recognized Christ as he exclaimed to the disciples, “It is the Lord!” If we want to get information about a person, we ask those who love him --- his friend, his wife, his family. The best information comes from the primary witnesses to his life.

I have two points for reflection. First, our personal roles. Within our own general vocations --- whether as single-blessed, married, religious or priestly --- are individual roles cut out specifically for us. Peter was gifted with leadership and so he was given the role of shepherd. Paul was fired with an enterprising spirit and so he was given the role of a missionary. And John was one who loves much and so was given the role of witness. How about us? In the conglomeration of our strengths and our weaknesses, our unique personalities and quirks, we can glean God’s specific role for us in the work of the Kingdom. Each role is important. And there should be no rivalry or competition: no one is greater or lesser than the other. We are all called to serve the Lord as best as we can. Jesus said to Peter, Never mind the task given to someone else. It is your job to follow me. Our glory or our worth is not in comparison to others, but in the quality of service we have rendered to God as excellently as our capacity allows us.

Finally, an invitation to depth in our lives. Verse 25 says, “There are many other things that Jesus did, and if they were written down one by one, I think that not even the world itself would be big enough to contain them.” The Gospels tells us about particular episodes in the life of Jesus --- and not all of it. They are fragments and scenes. Many things have not been said like Jesus’ hidden years --- the period between 12 years old to his first public life. The readers are asked to connect the dots, to supply the unwritten part, to put flesh to the skeleton of the literary piece. I guess this is where prayer, studies and reflection meet. The written word becomes alive with our own personal experience of Christ.

We pray that the Lord may so deepen our knowledge and love of Christ and the ‘new life’ He offers us in this Easter season, that we may become a more authentic disciple of Him.

*Mirador Jesuit Villa, May 2006. 8-day Province Retreat.

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