The Seeker and The Helper by Miles Savelli-Holt

What does it mean to become a beloved disciple? 

John 13:23, 14:21, 19:26-27, 21:7 give us some hints to reflect on. 

The beloved disciple as portrayed in these verses reflects the following characteristics:

He knows Jesus

Human beings cannot love someone, in the deepest sense, whom they do not know. And we  cannot offer ourselves completely to someone whom we do not love. John 14:21 shows us that true discipleship requires deep love. That deep love for Jesus compels us to obey and keep his commandments. This is only possible by truly knowing Jesus--his divine and human nature, his birth, mission, teaching, and pascal mystery. His promises, grace, and forgiveness. This is the depth of knowing Jesus that he calls us to. And as we deepen our relationship, our profound love, he will love his beloved disciples. As the Lord promised, "he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him" (Jn 14:21). 

He recognizes Jesus in himself 

In knowing and loving Jesus, the beloved disciple recognizes himself in the body of Christ and Jesus in himself. In the verses preceding John 14:21, Jesus tells his disciples that soon the world will see him no more, "but you will see me; because I live, you will live also...I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you" (Jn 19-20). Through faith in knowing Jesus, the beloved disciple realizes the fulfillment of this promise. We feel the presence of Jesus in us, through us, and with us. We long to remain close, "lying close to the breast of Jesus" (Jn 13:23). 

He recognizes Jesus in others (Mary)

In knowing and loving Jesus, the beloved disciple also recognizes Christ in others and responds to them with the same love, compassion, and friendship. "When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing" at the foot of the cross and says, "'Woman, behold, your son!' Then he said to the disciple, 'Behold, your mother!'" (Jn 19:26-27), he is still teaching--even unto his last earthly breath. As Jesus, lives and grows in the heart of the beloved disciple, he grows in familial-like kinship. He comes to understand, appreciate, and stand in awe-struck fear of the power of God's love and mercy, that we might all become sons and daughters of the Son, that we grow to see and love Mary as the Mother of us all--the New Eve. And that we are, thus, compelled to respond toward others keeping and living his second great Commandment. 

He is patiently obedient

In knowing and loving Jesus, the beloved disciple follows, listens, and obeys Jesus' commandments though, at times, he may not understand. The tender moment between the patient, beloved disciple sketched in John 13:23, is followed by Peter's characteristic hot-headed beckon, "Tell us who it is of whom he speaks" (Jn 13:24). Jesus does not respond. Jesus does, however, respond to the beloved disciple's patient inquiry, modeled after Jesus' own perfect role modeling of inquiry. "So, lying thus, close to the breast of Jesus, he said to him, 'Lord, who is it?'" (Jn 13:25). Scriptural evidence, also points us to the patient obedience of the beloved disciple when, by knowing Jesus, loving Jesus, recognizing him in himself and others, the disciple recognizes Mary as his own mother, the Blessed Mother of us all, "And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home" (Jn 19:27). No questions. No negotiation. No, "Well, let me check with my family." Just charitable, loving embrace of God's will. 


Becoming a Beloved Disciple

As I've attempted to illustrate, we are all seekers, journeying together to become a beloved disciple of Christ. As these scriptural reflections teach us, there are simple, practical, and life-giving practices that we can integrate into our Christian lives to become a beloved disciple. I'll list three with some examples:

1. Get to know Jesus deeply and personally through prayer, learning and reflecting on his Word, and patient listening.  We can also reflect on his pascal mystery often. We can deeper our relationship and lay closer to to his breast through living a more intentionally sacramental life--in our marriages, reconciliation, and eucharist. We cannot love someone whom we do not know.

2. Keep and obey his commandments. In knowing and loving Jesus, we are transformed. We discover how truly gentle his yoke is, and we want to obey his commandments. By understanding his life, Gospel message, teaching, and infinite love for humanity, we more deeply understand his commandments, not as a set of rules, but as a right response to his mercy, suffering, and ultimate sacrifice for our sins. 

3. Practice seeing the face of Christ in others. It's far easier to claim a personal relationship with Jesus, than it is to truly embrace and love the stranger, immigrant, orphan, and widow--particularly when we live in fear, distrust, and conflict. However, the more we know and love Jesus, the more we are challenged to do just that--to love our neighbor as ourself. Through daily encounters, and what I call Sacred Conversations, we can all practice loving Jesus by seeing the face of Christ in ourselves and others as we become beloved disciples.

About the author 

Christopher Reed, Ph.D.

Author of "Sacred Conversations: How God Wants us to Communicate."

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