Fr Paul reads from the Gospel of John (21: 20-25) in which Jesus, when Peter questions him about the disciple he loved, says “If I want him to stay behind till I come, what does it matter to you? You are to follow me.”
Fr Paul says the Gospel today raises the question: Who is this Beloved Disciple?
The Gospel steadfastly refuses to identify him by name – and with good reason: it is the disciple whom Jesus loves. This disciple features four times in the Gospel, normally associated with John, but each time unnamed.
The first occasion is at the Last Supper (13.23), next to Jesus and closely in contact with him.
The second occasion is at the foot of the Cross (19.26), close to the Mother of Jesus, when Jesus joins the two together to form the first Christian community and over them breathes forth his spirit – or possibly, with a typical Johannine ambiguity, his Spirit.
The third occasion is at the empty Tomb (20.2), when Peter is puzzled, but the Beloved Disciple recognises the significance: he sees and believes.
And now here Jesus wants the Beloved Disciple to stay behind till he comes. This disciple, says the author, is the one who has witnessed about these things, and we know that his witness is true.
Such is the portrait of the beloved disciple, a disciple who reclines next to Jesus at the Eucharist, who shares the Passion with Jesus and joins his mother to form the Christian community, who believes in the Resurrection, and who hands on the tradition until Jesus comes again. Deservedly this disciple has no name, for it is the portrait of every Christian whom Jesus loves.
Fr Paul leaves us with our Gospel question for today ‘How can I be the beloved disciple in today’s world?’