The disciple whom he loved

Daily Reading for December 27 • St. John, Apostle and Evangelist

For John, the irony is that the cross itself is the very place where the community of love is created. In the midst of his suffering, Jesus begins to weave this community from the small band of people who had the courage to keep company with him as he hung upon the cross, starting with his mother and the disciple whom he loved. From the cross where Jesus is drawing all to himself he begins to weave the community of those who will live from intimacy with himself, intimacy with God through him. . . .

Through this simple pledging of Mary to the beloved disciple and of him to Mary at the foot of the cross, the evangelist takes the new commandment to love one another and places it directly in the vortex of death and self-offering. By doing so John squeezes every remaining drop of sentimentality out of our understanding of love. Love, love—the word is always ringing in our ears, but when is it not mixed up with something else? Love and the desire to possess, love and the need to control, love and the need to be needed, love and the lust to absorb, love and condescension, love and narcissism. In the Christian mystery love itself must be crucified, must die to be reborn as the grace of communion, as love set free. In a mysterious sign the evangelist points to the new home of the beloved disciple as the place where this has happened, the household from which the church’s authentic identity has its origin.

From Love Set Free: Meditations on the Passion According to St. John by Martin L. Smith, SSJE (Cambridge, Mass.: Cowley Publications, 1998).

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