This past week I was at a conference, and one of the speakers asked us to do something that really stuck with me. He asked us to imagine the Apostle John, in his old age as he was exiled on the island of Patmos. All of the other disciples had been martyred by this point; only John remained. The speaker asked us to imagine John thinking back to that moment when Jesus first called him, and he left all behind to follow him.
In my mind’s eye I could see an elderly, white haired man hunched over a rock, thinking, reflecting and writing, and doing that with tears running down his face. I could see a man writing about the moment that his life changed trajectory. John refers to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” which doesn’t tell us that Jesus was playing favorites, but that John truly understood, maybe more than the other Apostles, how much Jesus loved him. And it occurred to me how painful it must have been to be separated from Jesus, from the God made man who he had lived with and loved. John, the Beloved Apostle, must have felt an immense amount of grief. True, Jesus had given him a job to do and had asked him to care for his mother, Mary, and I’m sure that that brought him joy. He also founded many Churches and served the Lord well, but at his heart, he probably just really wanted to go be with Jesus.
I guess that I had always thought of John as blessed because he wasn’t martyred the way the other Apostles were. Being crucified upside down like Peter was, or being beheaded like Paul was, would be very difficult ways to die. But he did have a martyrdom of sorts because he was separated for many, many years from the one who loved him more than life itself. That must have been a hard cross to carry.
Maybe he would be a good Paton Saint for those who are grieving. Since he deeply felt the love of Jesus, I’m guessing he deeply grieved being separated from him for so long.
St. John the Apostle, pray for us.