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The Beloved Disciple

Sister Doreen’s Reflection

Today is the actual Feast Day of St. John the beloved disciple and our Patronal Festival – the Saint after whom our community is named: The Sisterhood of St. John the Divine.

This is a picture of John at the last supper leaning close to Jesus, listening deeply. John Newell writes that in the Celtic tradition this leaning towards Jesus at the last supper tells us that John is listening to the heartbeat of God.

Over the years, John, an ordinary and passionate fisherman, has become for me a role model for the practice of listening, listening deep within ourselves, within one another, within the world and all of creation. John heard with the ears of his ears, and listened with the ears of his heart. In many ways John as a role model is a vocational call to all of us ordinary and passionate folks – to a life of prayer, of contemplation, and of active discipleship with a personal Saviour. It can become a model for us, to enable us to listen to the heartbeat of God, to hear our true name, to see as God sees, with compassion and hope. It is a call to be a real presence – to stand with Jesus as alive and active, to be intimate and compassionate, in the world today. Within each of us is the unspeakably beautiful heartbeat of God, and John reminds us that we are to honour that sacredness in ourselves, in one another, and in everyone and everything in creation. One of the most amazing things about God is how truly personal God is to each of us, who walks through all our experiences with us, we who are the beloved of the Beloved, we who are God’s most precious possession!

As we ponder this, as we grow in awareness that we are bearers of God’s presence and as we make a commitment to honour that presence in one another and the earth, I believe we hold the key to transformation in the world today. This could shake and change the way we live!

Our world is entering a new era I believe – something new is needed. What we see all around us is the conflicts, anger and wars, in the increasing gap between the wealthy and the poor, in an aggressive individualism that fosters selfishness, in the hunger, homelessness, and addictions, in the poor earth abused by greed. Where are the signs of hope today? Could it be true that what we have discovered during this long period of COVID – that we need each other and belong to each other, more than we could have imagined is a gift of hope? Could it be that we are more aware that each one of us is a bearer of God’s presence, and that we are ready to make a commitment to honour that presence in one another and the earth, and this is a sign of hope? Could this be the key to transformation in the world today?

John the Beloved disciple holds out a spirituality that gives me the light, the strength, and the love to live my life – knowing that I have within me the heartbeat of God, a personal relationship with God who offers love, trust, and friendship to each person. A God who believes how beautiful and valuable each one is and how each one is loved by God, tenaciously and unconditionally. I believe that it is this that will perhaps wake us up to that something new, that renewed hope we need today. To be loved without limits and to be creative and compassionate in loving others, this brings us out of self-centeredness to a centeredness in God and in each other and into that new something that we need today. It is in keeping company with John, listening to the heartbeat of God, that we discover what it means to be a friend of Jesus.

This is a vocational call to a life that will be both comfort, conversion, and challenge. It is a call to servanthood, to entering deeply with a personal Saviour into the mystery of life and of the world around us. It is a call to gift each other with our belovedness, to stand with Jesus as alive and active. To really believe in and live out this belovedness will resonate deeply in the mind of our culture with extraordinary significance and power. It is this that will enable us to keep calm and carry on in the midst of the messy brokenness and pain of the world around; to see the treasure hidden in the field, to see the Christ Child in the most ordinary places, and to see the handprints of God in all of creation.

John shows us that the image of God is woven into the fabric of our being, it is the core of the human soul. We are sacred, holy, not because we have been baptized or because we belong to one faith tradition over another. We are holy because we have been born. John the beloved show us this golden thread. It is in John’s gospel that we hear that simple and profound plea “little children, love one another.”

May we like him, lean into the loving heart of Jesus, lean into wisdom and listen to the heartbeat of God. May we, like John and the other disciples let ourselves be attracted and shocked by Jesus and so discover what it means to be a friend of Jesus.

Lean close, and can you hear the heartbeat of God?
Lean close, and can you hear the heartbeat of God in yourself?
Lean close, and can you hear the heartbeat of God in those around you?
Lean close, and can you hear the heartbeat of God in the world?
Lean close, and can you hear the heartbeat of God in all of creation?

Indeed, I repeat again, within each of us is the unspeakably beautiful heartbeat of God, and John reminds us that we are to honour that sacredness in ourselves, in one another, and in everyone and everything in creation. One of the most amazing things about God is how truly personal God is to each of us, who walks through all our experiences with us, we who are the beloved of the Beloved, God’s most precious possession!