A renewed Peter, now confident of being in the Lord’s good graces, swiftly turns his attention to his fellow disciple John and asks, “Lord, what about him?”
Why does Peter suddenly take an interest in John’s particular destiny? After having his own martyrdom foretold, does he wish to benefit his silent comrade and obtain foreknowledge of his end as well? Whatever may be in Peter’s heart, Jesus tells him that such curiosity is irrelevant. Keep your eyes fixed on me, he says. “You follow me.”
In our earthly state, with the eyes of the spirit not yet fully attuned to divine realities, there is a tendency to fall into the comparison syndrome. The brothers spent time in idle speculation about John because Jesus had said, “What if I want him to remain until I come?”
Referring to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” John stands out for his deeply personal relationship with Christ. He is also highly intuitive. At the empty tomb, “he saw and believed,” and at the miraculous catch of fish, “That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’” Requiring fewer proofs and empirical data, John’s vision soars far beyond the created cosmos to arrive at the Word who was “in the beginning.”
The reality is that every single disciple is beloved by Jesus in a unique, unrepeatable, and incomparable way, but only John seems to have reached a high state of realization of that personal love during his time on earth. He also spent years quietly caring for the Blessed Virgin Mary until her Assumption. John’s Gospel was written many years after the other Gospels had circulated. It is the fruit of deep contemplation and lofty theological insight, no doubt in part due to his quiet hours with the Mother of God.
In light of the Trinity, the comparison syndrome is seen to be illusory. Absolutely distinct persons cannot be compared. Individuals in the divided state of nature can be compared according to quantities and qualities like height and musicality, but persons cannot be.
Persons contain the whole nature, as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit each contain the whole divine nature. But the Persons are absolutely unique, and thus transcend the categories of equality and inequality. For example, the Father is neither equal nor unequal to the Son as Person, but utterly distinct from him. The concept of “equality” is typically applied to the oneness of nature (the Son is equal to the Father as God), but cannot touch the distinction of persons.
This is true also of the brethren of Christ. Each child of the Father in Christ is a unique person, but each also carries the entire Body of Christ, the one deified human nature. When one member suffers, all suffer. When one rejoices, all rejoice. A desert monk once said that he spent twenty years in combat so as to be able to see all humankind as one man. Such a realization puts an end to envy and comparison because we enjoy the gifts of our brothers and sisters as our very own. We also do everything we can to make others flourish.
Bottom line: Each child of the Father is supremely loved and is “the disciple whom Jesus loves.”