Thursday, December 27, 2012

December 27 - John, Apostle, Caretaker of Mary, "the Disciple Who Jesus Loved"

John had come a long way to follow Jesus. His mother--Salome--had watched her two sons--John and James--follow after this itinerant preacher and leave her husband behind. They had a successful fishing business but John and James had other things in mind. John had been following John the Baptizer but had recently switched his allegiance to this new Jesus fellow and had begun to talk about the things Jesus was saying and doing in the sight of the religious leaders. Salome was worried by her sons' association with this man because she recognized that the leaders would do anything to stay in power and keep Rome at a distance--even if it meant turning over well-meaning boys of affluent and influential social status. But, John insisted that he had nothing else he could do except follow Jesus because Jesus was offering something that nobody else could offer: life more abundant.

Yet, as John and Peter watched Jesus slowly suffer and die, they had to wonder if it hadn't all been a hoax. The one who had promised life more abundant was languishing on a Roman cross and being mocked by his accusers and one of his fellow victims. Mary--Jesus' mother--had insisted that she would be present for the death of her own son and so she was. Simeon's words were coming true all over again as Mary experience excruciating agony over the death of her own son before her eyes--the death of a promise and of her own hope, perhaps--and her ears rang with knowledge that a "sword would pierce her own soul, too." John stepped forward to comfort her and wrap her up in his arms so that she might find some relief from the terrible distress engulfing her in front of the Roman authorities. With one arm wrapped around her, he looked up at the source of her hope and distress and wondered if everything had finally broken down beyond repair--wondered if there was room for hope in a world that crucified one like Jesus. Jesus looked down, coughed harshly foreshadowing the death rattle that nested within his chest and called out in a voice barely audible: "Mom...that's your son, now." Mary's sobs escalated in pitch as she suffered under her dying son's compassion. Turning to look John in the eyes, Jesus continued: "John, take care of your mother." John knew instantly that Jesus was calling to take care of Mary and fulfill the duties of a firstborn son to his widowed mother. He nodded his assent to Jesus and Jesus went on to die. As far as John was concerned, this woman truly was a mother to him now.

Even after the resurrection, the ascension, and Pentecost, John still cared for Mary and watched over her. She passed on several years later (some say a decade after Jesus) and John took up the mission of the Kingdom that Jesus had inaugurated with blood from nail-pierced hands. He traveled to Ephesus and Asia-minor. He would eventually be swept up in the persecutions to be executed but would be the last to die because when they went to execute him, their efforts were fruitless. Eventually, they gave up and exiled him to an island--Patmos--where he would receive one final vision revelation. In this vision, he would find hope anew to offer the Church struggling under persecution. The Lamb that was Slain offered an assurance of healing and reward for those who would dare persist in their commitment to a Gospel of life through death in the face of the promise of the latter.

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