I was in first year college when I discovered St. John the Evangelist. I did not have a background in Theology then for I was preparing myself to be a nurse. But in that one subject called Philosophy of Man, I was tasked by my brilliant professor to report on the Gospel of John. Clueless, I went to St. Paul’s, bought a Robert Brown book (who later on, became a staple in my library!), tried to decipher the jargons and when I gave up, dashed to the Seminaryo to consult my cousin who was still a Theology student. I would like to believe that that first encounter with the study of John began the stirring of what was to come many years later.
As I read the entire Gospel, one line during the Last Supper scene made an imprint in my heart: “One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved, was reclining at Jesus’ side.” (Jn 13:23) This verse, though not part of any reading today, visited me again in prayer and then a song:
Once upon a Thursday night
A supper did renew my life
Once upon a garden pray’r cried
“My solitude is nigh now”
And then I wondered, as I listened to the song while in transit, what could have made John stay with Jesus from His side, to the Garden and then to the cross? What could he have heard in His beating heart on that Thursday night when he laid his head on his Master’s bosom? What could have he witnessed that never left his mind? What could have he heard that will make him stay steadfast ’til the end, despite the nights he had to endure and the constant threat of death?
Before entering the adoration chapel in St. Francis this morning, I felt moved to stand beneath the big cross that stood amid the Franciscan saints. Then the answer came: it was Jesus’ faithful, unwavering love. I looked at the saints beside him, each who ran the race sometimes bruised and battered but have found the reward of seeing Him in all His glory in the end. What made Saints saints was not because their hearts were free from blemish; what made St. Francis, St. Clare, St. Pio saints was their fidelity to the Master who loved them first.
“Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.” (Jn 13:1)
The beloved disciple’s response of love came from his experience of the faithful love of his Master who “loved them to the end.” Despite their unfaithfulness, despite their shortcomings, despite the abandonment and the pain of being rejected, He loved them unceasingly.
I sat before the Blessed Sacrament, remembering the days past. I found myself again in the garden. I find myself now in the garden. But holding fast to His faithful and merciful love, I believe the night will soon be broken by the sunrise. Maybe in order to stay faithful, we need to lay our heads on His heart that understands what we could not. And just stay there. Stay in the joy. Stay in what is now. Stay in the ache. To listen to His heartbeat that says nothing but, “I love you.”
In listening to His heartbeat, in staying at the foot of the cross, we would receive the grace to carry on, knowing that He endured everything first. And as He endured firstly, so should we. And as He obeyed and loved the Father’s will wholly, so should we. And as He loved as firstly, so should we…
’til our hearts beat no more.
Whose but Savior’s night, who but God’s Delight
Who but he whose night His friends had left behind can
Fill my emptiness and promise me a sunrise?
Jesus Lord of life…candle of the night
Sweet solitary life.