Fr. Francis Scaria
In a true disciple of Christ, the disciple whom Jesus loves and the disciple who loves Jesus meet. The Johannine Gospel presents John as the disciple whom Jesus loves. John 13:23 tells us that the disciple whom Jesus loved was reclining near Jesus. He had the liberty to talk to Jesus and clarify doubts even on behalf of other disciples (cf. Jn 13:23-26). On the other hand Peter seems to be the disciple who loves Jesus. In Peter we see the human struggle of a disciple who tries to love Jesus. His spirit is willing but the body is weak (cf. Mt 26:41). He is not able to stand up to his pledge to love Jesus at the last supper (cf. Jn 13:36-38). Peter’s denial brings us to confront this fact.
The way of the cross was a test for the disciples of Jesus. One by one, they deserted Jesus. In Jn 18:8, Jesus tells those who came to arrest him, “If you are looking for me, let these men go”. Jesus did not want to endanger their life for his own sake. We realise that Judas and other nine disciples left the scene. It is significant that in Jn 18:15 we read, “Simon Peter with another disciple followed Jesus”. A careful reader of the Gospel of St. John will know that “another disciple” is St. John who will appear at the foot of the Cross. We are told that during the religious trial of Jesus, this disciple who was with Peter “was known to the High Priest, they let him enter the courtyard of the High Priest along with Jesus” (Jn 18:15). “But Peter had to stay outside the door” (Jn 18:16). The other disciple then “spoke to the maidservant at the gate and brought Peter in” (Jn 18:16). It is at this point probably that Peter too leaves Jesus after the triple denial leaving John alone to follow Jesus to the foot of the cross (cf. Jn 18:16-27). One notices that Judas was the first to desert Jesus and the only one who made it to the foot of the cross was John. He too did not make it by his power and ability but was drawn by Jesus’ love, for he was the disciple Jesus loved.
The contrast between the divine love that is perfect and the human love that is imperfect becomes so vivid here. The divine love is perfect with all the qualities mentioned in 1 Cor 13. Peter shows the limited height the human love can touch. The Risen Lord gives Peter an opportunity to affirm his imperfect love and crowns it in his final encounter with him at the lake of Tiberias (cf. Jn 21).
In every disciple of Christ we meet the disciple Jesus loves and the disciple who loves Jesus. It is a great experience to love Jesus like Peter; but it is an even greater an experience to feel loved by Jesus like John.
The good news for us is that after the Pentecost we are now enabled to love with perfect divine love. Jesus has bestowed on us the Holy Spirit, the love-power or the love-current with which the Father and the Son love each other. St. Paul so meaningfully tells us in 2 Cor 6:6, “People can notice in our upright life, knowledge, patience and kindness, action of the Holy Spirit, sincere love, words of truth and power of God”. Can it be a coincident that the new commandment of Jesus to love one another “as I have loved you” is sandwiched between the prediction of Judas’ betrayal and that of Peter’s denial? The import of the words “as I have you loved you” should make us tremble.
All this is proved in the Acts of the Apostles. The same two disciples are on their way, now enabled to love Jesus in a divine way through the gift of the Holy Spirit, to proclaim Christ with boldness and fervour. Peter is now so full of Jesus that he says to the man crippled from birth, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I have I give you: In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, walk” (Act 3:6). When they are charged not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus, Peter and John answered the members of the Council, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s eyes for us to obey you rather than God. We cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Act 4:19-20). May the Feast of Pentecost enable us to embrace everyone and everything with divine love!
MUSINGS : 1-25,