One of the greatest aspects of the Gospels is their striking realism. Reading the Evangelists’ accounts of the life of Jesus is like taking a step back in time and immersing yourself in the life of Jesus and his closest followers. One of the most striking features is how the various characters are depicted – no one is a cardboard cutout; instead each person is shown for the unique personality he or she is.
We see this especially in the depictions of the apostles: these are not cult-like drones who are identical in their reactions and personalities. They are each unique persons who follow Christ for different reasons,with different intensities and from different backgrounds. But none is more unique than the “beloved disciple” John, whose feast we celebrate today. He is unique among apostles in a variety of ways:
- He is the youngest apostle, being in his teens when the Lord called him.
- He is the only apostle to remain with Jesus at the Cross.
- Jesus, while dying on the Cross, entrusted his mother Mary to John’s care.
- He is the only apostle not to be martyred.
- He is the only apostle to compose an apocalyptic writing.
- He was the most beloved by Jesus of all the apostles.
Each and every follower of Christ is an individual child of God who will follow the Lord in a unique way. Although there are general guidelines we all will follow (prayer, the sacraments, etc.), we must always be careful not to force other disciples of Christ into a man-made box. Instead, we should all find our own unique path to discipleship within Christ’s body, the Church.
St. John, apostle and evangelist, pray for us!