7 April 2020
Is 49,1-6; Jn 13,21-33.36-38
We are now on the tail-end of the Lenten Season. Very soon, we shall enter the Great Paschal Triduum. Our liturgy on this third day of the Holy Week unfolds the developing drama of the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord.
When the brother of the wife of the immigration lawyer who assisted me passed away on Monday last week and my godfather in New York also succumbed to the covid-19 last Friday, death ceased to be mere pandemic statistics for me, along with the number of family breadwinners adding to the number of the unemployed, the number of medical and religious personnel fatally affected, the number of students now out of school… the list goes on. How are we affected by this pandemic? What do we do in this time of turmoil, as Fr. Guerric referred to our troubled times last Sunday?
Today’s Gospel Reading tells of how Jesus is deeply troubled as he begins the final moments of his earthly life. How did the apostles respond when Jesus foretells that someone would betray Him? When even Peter who could not imagine himself away from Jesus would not be strong enough to stand by him and would actually deny him very soon, when the cock crows at daybreak? How did Jesus conduct himself with all this knowledge of His closest companions falling away? At that very moment which sets the whole passion experience in motion, Jesus speaks of His being glorified and of God being gloried. The Light, referred to in Isaiah’s second Servant Song, continues to glimmer for it is set to light up all the ends of the earth.
The Evangelist John tells of how the disciple Jesus loved, reclining next to Him, leans against His chest. The beloved disciple remains unfazed but not oblivious amidst all the turmoil that Jesus has just revealed. Key is how he keeps focused on his own intimacy with Jesus to the point that it is all that mattered. This gives us the clue how later, at the crucifixion, this beloved disciple is the lone apostle who stands alongside Mary, the mother of Jesus. The beloved disciple, like Jesus, just stood his ground.
The Evangelist shows that this beloved disciple has appropriated for himself the communion Jesus shares with the Father. As this disciple is not named in this narrative, it invites us all to identify with him and become like him. For the fourth evangelist, we are all called to be as close to Jesus as He is to the Father, and as His Mother and beloved disciple are to Him. At Baptism, we were already gathered close to Him.
Stay with Jesus and we will walk in the light of his truth and love. Turn our backs on him and we will stumble and fall in the ways of sin and darkness. The challenge is to not lose sight of the Light, even and especially, in trying times. Just like in this time of turmoil when it might be easier to curse the pandemic and everyone else who seems not to do enough to contain it or to be distressed when even the Church could not offer the Sacraments than to hold fast to Jesus and put our hope in Him who we know has conquered evil, even death itself as we would later commemorate.
May the Holy Spirit give us the grace and strength to not only keep close to Jesus but to also be like Jesus who stays unfazed in communion with and in doing the will of the Father.
And may God be glorified in our moments of weakness, helplessness, and distress, for it is precisely when His love and mercy are most profound and pronounced.