A Disciple Must Be Christ's Friend, Pope Teaches
Reflects on Example Given by "Beloved Disciple"
VATICAN CITY, JULY 5, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The Apostle John teaches Christians that to be a disciple of Christ means to be his close friend, explained Benedict XVI today.
The Holy Father presented to the 25,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square for the general audience, "an important lesson for our lives" left by Jesus' "beloved disciple."
"[T]he Lord wishes to make each one of us a disciple who lives in personal friendship with him. To do this, it is not enough to follow and listen to him exteriorly; it is also necessary to live with him and as him," explained the Pontiff.
"This is only possible in the context of a relationship of great familiarity, penetrated by the warmth of total trust," he added, continuing with the series of meditations he is offering on the Twelve Apostles and the origins of the Church.
"It is what happens between friends: this is why Jesus said one day: 'Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends … No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you,'" he stressed.
John was always part of the restricted group -- which included Peter and John's brother James -- that accompanied Jesus in decisive moments of his earthly life, such as the transfiguration, prayer in the Garden of Olives before the Passion. At the Last Supper he rested his head on Jesus' breast, as recounted in the fourth Gospel.
Then, after the Resurrection, he witnessed both the empty tomb as well as the very presence of the Risen One, when he appeared to the disciples who had gone back to fishing.
On being tried before the Sanhedrin with Peter, he replied: "we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard."
"This frankness in confessing their own faith remains as an example and a warning for all of us so that we will be ready to declare with determination our unbreakable adherence to Christ, putting our faith before any human calculation or interest."
Tradition says that he died at a very advanced age, under the emperor Trajan, in Ephesus, which today is part of Turkey.
Because of this, he is greatly venerated by Eastern Christians, who represent him in their icons "in intense contemplation, with the attitude of one who invites to silence."
"In fact, without proper recollection, it is not possible to approach the supreme mystery of God and his revelation," said Benedict XVI.
"May the Lord help us to place ourselves in the school of John," the Holy Father concluded, so as "to learn the greatest lesson of love so that we feel loved by Christ 'to the end' and spend our lives for him,"