Peter’s Mentor: The Beloved Disciple

05-05-2019From Our PastorFather Prince Raja

In the liturgy, since the beginning of the Easter Triduum (the three days before Easter), through the Eastertide we hear so much from the Gospel of John. In the passion narrative and in the resurrection accounts of the Gospel of John, suddenly we have a new disciple who is introduced as: "the one whom Jesus loved" (Jn 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20). He is unique to the Gospel of John, and he is unnamed. Being anonymous there is something mysterious about him; there is something mythical about him; and in fact, there is something divine about him. Interpreting this figure within the general style of the Gospel of John – that this Gospel is highly symbolic – I have always looked at this 'Beloved Disciple' as a symbolic person. In this way, I find it possible to identify myself with that disciple, and to seek the intimacy granted to him by Jesus.

The Beloved Disciple as the Mentor of Peter

This was the insight: I notice that whenever 'the disciple whom Jesus loved' is referred to in the Gospel, Peter is also mentioned; and often the reaction of the Beloved Disciple is contrasted with that of Peter.

We hear of the Beloved Disciple, for the first time, during the last supper (Jn 13:23). We find him "reclining next to Jesus" (NJB). On this occasion the Beloved Disciple becomes the spokesperson for Peter. The second time that we come across the disciple whom Jesus loved is at the foot of the cross. Finally, we have it. The passage that we heard read as the gospel text of this Sunday.

Peter has his moment as the Beloved Disciple disappears to the background

The setting is the Lake of Tiberias(just another name for the Sea of Galilee). Eight days have gone by since the resurrection. There has been a great catch of fish (similar to Lk 5:1-9), there is the awareness of the uniqueness of Jesus as the Lord (similar to the experience at Caesarea Philippi, Mt 16:13-19), and there is a meal made ready (an experience of the Eucharist), there is going to be that unique encounter between Jesus and Peter in the Gospel of John. The encounter is in terms of a personal love for Jesus: "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do? Simon son of John, do you love me? Simon son of John, do you love me?" Three times! Perhaps to remind Peter of the threefold denial. 'Simon son of John': it is a formal ultimatum. It is also a moment of empowering: "Feed my lambs. Look after my sheep. Feed my sheep." It is a moment of assurance that, despite one's inabilities, despite one's failures, despite one's past, what finally counts is, love!

If you continue to read on, you will notice in the next scene (Jn 21:20-23): it is Peter who is close to the Lord, and the disciple whom Jesus loved is trailing behind. Peter now becomes the spokesperson for the Beloved Disciple. The Beloved Disciple can now disappear into the background, because his task is complete.

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