Fri, 29 May 2020
(Acts 28:16-20,30-31; Ps.11:4-5,7; Jn.21:20-25)
“I wear these chains solely because I share the hope of Israel.”
The hope of Israel indeed wears chains. The Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior of the nation, is fixed to a cross. This is the call of all who follow Jesus – to die.
But, Peter is prompted to ask as he walks with Jesus and the Lord explicates his dual call to serve as leader of the Church and to die for his faith, “What about him?” What about John, who follows them? The question pertains not simply to whether or not John also must suffer a martyr’s death, but principally – as the principal call of Peter is to feed the Lord’s flock – to why Jesus does not call John to serve as His first of priests, standing in His stead, for it is clear to all that John is “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Jesus responds, “Suppose I want him to stay until I come,” suppose He does not want John to pour himself out as a libation on His holy altar… that should be of no concern to the Rock of the Church. Jesus calls whom He wills to what He wills for His blessed purpose. And John is not called to die, or to lead.
John is, in fact, the only one of the Twelve who does not suffer a martyrdom of blood. He does remain until a very old age. His martyrdom is white, that of suffering a long life. And in several ways he remains ever with the Church on earth, in a sense, as the Christ’s beloved Church. It is he to whom the Blessed Mother is entrusted, she who is with us always to nurture us here on our journey. And in our gospel today, the principal call of John is most evident: he is called to “witness to… the things that Jesus did” and to “record them.” “It is he who wrote them down,” he who is the great Evangelist – he whose words remain with us even today as we read his gospel throughout the most blessed season of Easter. And, of course, it is he who, in his old age, while exiled on the island of Patmos, will receive the great vision that has become the Book of Revelation, thus telling us so thoroughly not only of Jesus’ life on earth, but also of His life in heaven.
In our first reading, Paul is “allowed to take a lodging of his own.” Though “a soldier was assigned to keep guard over him… with full assurance, and without any hindrance whatever, he preached the reign of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.” What Paul does in earthly chains for two years – for soon he, too, shall be martyred for the faith – John does, in a sense, endlessly, or at least until its natural end.
“The Lord is in His holy temple… His searching glance is on mankind.” He calls all to the martyrdom He chooses. Let us each wear the chains He provides, each find the place in the kingdom to which He leads us, knowing always that “the upright shall see His face.”
O LORD, however much we speak of you,
there is more to tell;
you far surpass our poor witness, O hope of Israel.
YHWH, if we must stay here in rented lodgings, let us witness to you with our lives. If today we must die, let our blood be shed upon your altar of sacrifice. Whatever we do, whether we live or die, let it be done for you.
We do not know how long we shall dwell upon this earth, O LORD. We do not know when we shall die and come with you to Paradise. But we know that your call is upon our souls, that while here we wear your chains and before us is set your Son’s Cross. And we know the source of both the chains of this life and the death we must die is the hope we bear in our souls, the hope of entering into your reign. And we know that your reign is alive in us even this day.
Peter is the first of priests, sacrificing himself in the place of your Son upon your holy altar. John, your beloved, witnesses to you with his love and in the words he speaks to us. If we must stay and write, O LORD (vision of you upon our souls), or if we must bleed and die, let all be done for you who dwell on high… and let us join you in your Temple.