St John the Apostle and Evangelist, whose feast is celebrated today, has contributed much to Christianity throughout the ages. He is credited with authoring one of the gospels, 3 New Testament letters and the Book of Revelation. For our reflection, I’d like to examine one incident that provides us all with a great example of what it means to be a loyal member of the Church founded by Jesus Christ.
In today’s gospel (Jn 20:1-8), Mary Magdalene informs Peter and John that the Lord’s body is missing from the tomb. After rushing to the burial location, John arrives at the tomb first. In total submission to the authority of the first Pope, John waits until Peter arrives and allows him to enter first. After Peter enters the tomb and inspects the scene, John also enters. According to his words in the gospel narrative, “he saw and believed”.
Throughout John’s gospel, he refers to himself as “the apostle that Jesus loved”. While Jesus most certainly loved all of the apostles, there was obviously some kind of bond between John and The Lord. John was certainly aware of this since he mentions it several times, but he didn’t let it “go to his head”. He submits to Peter’s authority as the head of the Apostles, knowing that it was Jesus who established this role.
In today’s world, many people reject any form of authority. Even in the Catholic Church, there are some who dispute the authoritative nature of the Papacy. They rebel against papal directives, feeling that they know better than the Church in setting moral standards. A very sad example in recent times is the blatant rejection of Pope Paul VI’s inspired encyclical Humanae Vitae by several dissident Catholic “theologians”. Ignoring the words of Our Lord when He said, “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matt 16:18-19), they decided that they knew better and publicly renounced this infallible teaching. This defiant rejection so affected Pope Paul VI that he never wrote another encyclical.
Today, let’s take our example from John the Apostle and pledge to always love and respect our Holy Father. His office is a magnificent gift from The Lord and will provide us with the guidance we need to someday reach the Kingdom of Heaven.