Holy Week 2005


Suddenly, in the middle of the day, it had become pitch black; unusually black because there were no stars. John thought he must have been having another of his visions.

Ever since he came to the Temple School in Jerusalem John had been having visions. It was too much Daniel. As the youngest in the class he had been the last to choose his special book and there were not all that many left, so he had chosen Daniel and its multiple variants; but it was the visions that gripped him not the exegesis. Of course, he said nothing; imagine what the other boys would have said if he had told them he was having visions. It was bad enough being an outsider.

John had been born so late that people talked about it: some said a child so late was a special gift from God; others said that no child born so late could be normal. John always thought he was different. He did not like boats and water and when it became clear that he would not carry on in the family fishing business he was lucky enough to get help from the local Rabbi to go down to Jerusalem. It had all been fixed by his Guardian, Nicodemus and his friend Joseph who chaired the Scholarship Committee at the Temple.

At the beginning, the visions were disembodied flashes, huge infusions of light that made outlandish shapes; but when he first saw Jesus as he sat with James in their boat, he was overcome by a vision of light and water so that he felt sick. James, being phlegmatic, would say it was the angle of the sun and the movement of the boat but John knew it was a sacred vision and it had something to do with Jesus who, according to the locals, was turning into a fine interpreter of Scripture. John had known that he would follow Jesus and from then on he was rewarded with regular visions. Even though those who followed Jesus were much kinder than the group of boys he had now left behind at the Temple, he was still too frightened to mention the visions, even to Peter; but The Master knew. Peter tried to look after him so carefully as he was the most sensitive but they never quite worked out their relationship and Jesus had to keep rescuing John when he was teased by the others for his affected Jerusalem accent, his soft hands and his tendency to daydream. Still, Peter was so confused when Jesus had taken him, James and John - the leader, the fixer and the dreamer - up Mount Tabor. Peter could not keep still; he needed to do something. James had looked blank but knew how to keep quiet and keep a straight face; but John knew what was going on and just concentrated on The Master. There had been no jokes about visions after that. John had talked to Judas about it because he was the most intelligent of The Master's followers but Judas was still thinking about a coronation in Jerusalem. John was too young to argue but he felt danger.

He saw the Spirit around the Master and he could hear The Father. He knew that The Master was the Son of God, not just the greatest of the prophets; but the brothers were very muddled and defensive and it was best to say nothing and follow quietly.

Then, as they had made their regular trip to Jerusalem for the Passover, the visions grew darker; they were full of blood and the sound of torture.

The last few hours had seemed like one unbroken vision. He knew that the foot washing was a farewell; he knew that the breaking of the bread was the breaking of The Master's body, he knew before Judas got up to leave who the betrayer was; and, knowing all this, he needed the comfort of The Master who was to die. Without that comfort he would have fainted.

But in the Garden of Gethsemane, with all that emotion in the air, he did faint. The blood had become almost tangible, the noises had grown louder and they happened while he was awake, not asleep; so the fainting and the darkness that followed were a relief. Then Judas came with the soldiers and John knew that Jesus wanted to be arrested. He could not work out the detail but he knew that The Master was just that, completely in charge of what was going on. That is why he wasn't frightened.

John knew how badly Peter would take it after the little skirmish with Malchus, so he decided to look after him during the trial and see if he could explain what was going on. But Peter did not understand the true purpose of the one he most loved or the politics in Jerusalem and he was so scared that he started saying really foolish things to the servants in the High Priest's courtyard after John had taken so much trouble to get him in. Then Peter had made an unearthly howling noise and rushed out, waving his knife. It could have been much worse but just as Peter ran away the news spread that CAIAPHAS was sending Jesus to Pilate. John knew what that would lead to; so Jesus must have wanted to be condemned both by the Jewish authorities and the Romans, by the spiritual and temporal rulers.

He could not find Peter who had not gone back to their Jerusalem headquarters but he did find the Master's mother and the other women who had heard nothing. They were still clearing up after the evening meal, growing anxious about the men who had gone out to pray. It was hard for John to tell his story but Mary's calmness helped him. They did not like going out, particularly not when there were crowds about but they had no choice. They reached the Governor's palace in time to see Pilate showing The Master to the crowd before He was bound over to be Crucified. John thought he saw Nicodemus slipping out of the side door but a soldier blocked his line of sight.

John walked with Mary because they both seemed to know that the whole series of terrible events were somehow under the control of her Son. The women were very upset but they said nothing. They followed The master, careful not to fall within his eye line but once he stopped suddenly and saw them and comforted them.

It was when they put The Master on the Cross that John knew he really was having a vision; but he knew he would not faint. He was the only man with Mary and the women; he must try to be more mature than his age.

In the dark the noises carried much further. John could hear the Master's slowing, shallowing breath; he could almost hear the beating of His heart. And then He said: "Mother, here is your son" and to John He said:  "And this is your mother". She held his hand.

Then The Master gave a deep sigh and said: "At last, it is finished"; but John did not hear the rest. He felt Mary's hand suddenly tighten, as if seized by a spasm, and he felt the Holy Spirit's life passing from her to him. Then his vision of the dark was transformed into a vision of unending light.

Prayer. Jesus, Saviour of the World, may our lives not be rooted in earthly things but remain faithful to Your Heavenly vision. May we, like John, be sustained by the promise of Your Kingdom, enshrined in Your redeeming love. Even now, as you ascend into Heavenly glory, we pray for Your help that we may be seekers after eternal truth through prayer, Sacrament and Holy Scripture. And, as you Commended your Mother Mary and Your beloved disciple John to one other, may we accept what you commend without doubt or hesitation. Filled by hope of salvation, may we hold before us the vision of the Blessed and undivided Trinity. Amen.