March 19, 2009
The road to Calvary runs right through the ministry of Jesus. Three times he tells his disciples that he “must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days” (Mk.8:31-33; cf. 9:30-32, 10:32-34). Jesus also lays down the requirement that every disciple must share in his cross (cf. Mt16:24-25 and Mt. 20: 20-23). But the road to Cross proves too arduous for the disciples to take.
In the last hours of Jesus’ life, Peter, his chosen leader, follows Jesus, albeit at a distance. He even makes his way into the courtyard of the High Priest. But once questioned about his own relationship with Jesus, he refuses to acknowledge that he is a disciple of Jesus. At this point in the Passion, Peter stops following Jesus. It is otherwise with John.
Along with Peter, John has been carefully following the path that Jesus takes from the Upper Room to the house of the High Priest. In fact, it is John who has gained Peter admittance to the courtyard of the High Priest. But even after Peter abandons the
via crucis, John continues to follow Jesus silently to the Cross. All the others disciples desert Jesus. Only John, the Beloved disciple, remains.
At the Cross, the Beloved disciple stands next to Mary, the mother of Jesus. John stands at the foot of the Cross because he wants to
stand with Jesus to the end. He is the loyal companion who does not abandon his friend. John was with Jesus in good times. He does not forsake him in bad times. Loyalty is the hallmark of the one who loves.
At the Last Supper, he had rested his head on Jesus’ breast (Jn 13:23). Now he stays as close as he can to Crucified Love. True love bears both the heat of summer and the cold of winter. John loves Jesus. All human friendships pale in comparison to our friendship with the Lord. When human love is rooted in the love of Christ, it is ennobled and given a greater purpose.
At the foot of the Cross, John the Beloved embodies the biblical virtue of endurance. As St. Paul teaches, love “endures all things” (1 Cor 13:7). The Greek word υπομενει (“endures”) comes from the language of war. It means “to hold out,” “to persevere,” “to stand firm against attacks.” Someone who endures holds to a position, not counting the costs, even death itself. Endurance in this sense is much more energetic than patience. The enemy may surround the individual. Yet he remains strong and courageous, braving all hostile attacks with heroism.
In the language of the New Testament, endurance is a fundamental attitude of the Christian who faces the hostile attacks of an unbelieving world. In those times when some ridicule religion, replace objective morality with subjective choice and persecute the Church, the Christian responds with the virtue of endurance. Even in the face of what seems like failure, the Christian endures with hope. Christian endurance comes not merely from personal bravery or from some kind of stoic indifference. Christian endurance is rooted in faith and love (1Tim 6:11; 2 Tim 3:10; Ti 2:2).
At the foot of the Cross, John holds fast to Jesus whom he loves. He perseveres and does not stop believing. He is the true prototype of faith that continues to believe even when God seems absent. Jesus is rejected. His disciples “all left him and fled” (Mk 14:50). Darkness covers Golgotha. Yet the Beloved remains. This is love that endures all things.
This is the second of three articles about John at the foot of the Cross.