That heartbeat

In the Gospel accounts of the Lord’s Passion, the account of the Last Supper occupies an important place. Many things happen there. In particular, the Evangelist John presents a striking image: that of the beloved disciple reclining on Jesus’ breast.

This is the Gospel passage in which the announcement of Judas’ betrayal is recorded. And it places the episode between the washing of the feet and the proclamation of the commandment of love. Jesus, after washing the disciples’ feet and exhorting them to humility, was deeply moved and declared: “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me. The disciples looked at one another in bewilderment, not knowing of whom he spoke” (Jn 13:21-22).  One of them – the disciple whom Jesus loved – at Peter’s suggestion, asks the Lord who the betrayer is. To do so, in an attitude of complete trust, he let himself fall on the Master’s breast (cf. Jn 13:23, 25).

Let us note how at that crucial Supper Peter, the leader of the group appointed by Jesus, does not even dare to speak to Him directly, but asks his question through the beloved disciple.  Intimacy is more important than leadership!

Does this scene want to tell us more? Over and above crude and sentimental interpretations, of caramelised pity or hard-to-swallow sweetness, the scene also wants to indicate something to us.

When we lay our head on another person’s chest, our ear rests right on their heart and we can hear their heartbeat. Thus, in John’s image, we see the beloved disciple with his ear on the heart of Jesus and his gaze on the world. It is the attitude of the true disciple who learns to love by leaning his head on the Lord’s breast and looking at the world because “a man always sees only to the extent that he loves” (Cardinal Ratzinger).

How do we translate this into our lives? Let us lay our head on Christ’s chest, as if we had a stethoscope recording the beating of his heart. Let us perceive those pulsations until we are filled with his love and consolation. And to the rhythm of that heartbeat, let us allow His love to flow through us to others. Then we will look at them without envy, without contempt or fear, without the feeling of being threatened or cheated, without the need to blame or to compete with anyone. Because when you don’t love too much, you don’t love enough. Let us show a kind heart, balm for so many wounds, capable of transmitting the warmth of forgiveness and consolation, sensitive to the sacredness that exists within all that is human and weak. And capable of perceiving God’s presence in the midst of the absences that sometimes overwhelm and confuse us so much.


Juan Carlos cmf

(PHOTO: Gera Juarez)



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