January 24, 2018, 9:26 am
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Unnamed, but Beloved still

JOHN was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” –which translated means Teacher – “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they went and saw where Jesus was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah”-which is translated Christ. Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas” – which is translated Peter.

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Near both the beginning and the end of the Gospel according to John we find pairs of disciples: the first pair are followers of John the Baptist, who leads them to Jesus (1:35ff); the second pair are Peter and the so-called Beloved Disciple (21:20ff). In both pairs, there is one disciple whose name is never mentioned, whose fate is never revealed to us. Left to us instead are the names of two brothers: Andrew and Peter.

This parallelism is significant in our faith journey as Christians for two reasons. Let us take up for now the latter pair. A theology professor once remarked that the namelessness of the Beloved Disciple is an opening for us to be spiritually intimate with Christ himself, for this disciple was able to lean “back against Jesus’ chest,” indicating an opportunity to be comfortable with the Lord’s thoughts and feelings. His namelessness allows us to become beloved disciples ourselves, to recline at Jesus’ chest, to take the mother of our Lord into our own homes, to outrun Peter to the tomb and believe the words of the Magdalene, to identify the distant figure at the shore as “the Lord.” What great love has this disciple for the Lord that he could forego his identity in order to share his Lord with us!

Let us now take up the first pair of the disciplines, who are the subject of today’s Gospel. John the Baptist points the Lamb of God to them: the disciples leave their former master and follow Jesus, They ask, “Where are you staying?” to which the Lamb of God replies, “Come and see.” Notice that they stayed with him, but only for a short while; thus the author’s note that it was already about four in the afternoon - by 6 p.m. it was already considered the next day. These first disciples came; they saw; and at least one of them was convinced. What exactly they saw, we do not know. But it was enough to send one of them, Andrew, rushing to his own brother Simon, and telling him that the man with whom Andrew stayed was definitely the Christ.

As for the other discipline, we never hear of him again. Or do we? There is always the possibility that the zeal of Andrew’s original companion might have petered out. But the New American Bible: Revised Edition’s gloss mentions that tradition has identified this other disciple as John, son of Zebedee. It is therefore also possible that the “other disciple” recruited his own brother: Zebedee’s sons were among those who fished in vain after Jesus’ resurrection.

This hiddenness of the Beloved Disciple leads us to the second lesson of the parallelism: we who also believed in his Lord must not be lax in drawing others to Christ. The namelessness of the beloved disciple at the end of Jesus’ ministry points to us Christians; but his namelessness at the beginning of that same ministry points to those who have yet to see the fullness of Christ living in us (cf. Gal 2:20). Today’s message to “come and see” not only applies to us who believe to come and see (again) the goodness of God through Jesus, to renew our discipleship; it is an authentic “come and see” for those unnamed sheep who through us may come to believe in the Good Shepherd as well. By living as true Christians, we not only renew our discipleship but also our apostleship; we glorify God in our own body (Second Reading). Instead of becoming stumbling blocks to those who do not believe, we draw them to the lord. We do not lose our identity, but become transparent vessels of God’s graces. Our hiddenness is not a denial of our dignity but the perfection of our love for Jesus. May our own lives, which are our own versions of the Gospel, speak less of ourselves and all of Christ!

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– Ivan R. Olitoquit
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