Readings: Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; 1 Peter 3:15-18; John 14:15-21 April 27, 2008
We notice a steady movement and growth in the attitude of the disciples from the resurrection of Jesus till the Pentecost. The disciples seem to be fully involved with the mystery of the resurrection. They are now ready to carry on the work of Jesus, to fulfil his mission and they will receive e the mission at the time of Ascension.
The first reading takes the topic of the proclamation of the word. Philip is now ready to preach and does with the signs and the calling of the Holy Spirit on the disciples who are baptised. We see that courage and boldness among the disciples. In the second reading we have Peter instructing the Christian community that it is better to suffer after doing the right if it is God’s will. He calls for the steadfastness of spirit and the fidelity to the Gospels. Today’s Gospel continues from last Sunday. The context again is the Last Supper. Jesus is preparing his disciples for his coming suffering and death but also for his Resurrection and Ascension when he will still be with them. But his presence will not be as the earlier one.
In the gospel Jesus invites the disciples to keep his commandments. “If you love me you will keep my commandments,” Jesus says to them. These commandments seem to his personal gift to the disciples. As we see in the Sermon on the Mount, the command that he gives is his personal love and hence St Augustine could say, love and do anything else. Jesus is goes beyond the traditional, Ten Commandments. They are still valid, necessary and important; but Jesus goes beyond them. He says categorically that he has not come to do away with the Jewish law or the teaching of the prophets but rather to fulfil their inner potential. “You have heard it said… but I say…” Jesus’ “commandments” are on a different level. It is HIS commandments we are to keep. In reality there is only one and that is the commandment to love: to love God with all our heart and soul, and to love others as we love ourselves, to love others as Jesus loves us, as he loves the sinner, as he love his enemies.
They include commands to recognise Jesus in the neediest, in the poor, in the sick, in the marginalised; even in the criminal on the cross, in every one. They contain an invitation to be agents of healing and reconciliation in a broken and divided world. There is nothing explicit about any of this in the Ten Commandments. A good Christian is not just a law-abiding person taking care of oneself. He/she is a loving, caring person reaching out to others in love and service.
At the Last Supper Jesus tells the disciples that he will be leaving them and moving away. This did pain the disciples for they had placed their trust in him. Today he reassures them that they will not be left alone. They will require support and help to keep those commandments of Jesus. “I shall ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate to be with you for ever, the Spirit of truth.” The word translated ‘Advocate’ here is in Greek parakletos, from which comes ‘Paraclete’ in our older translations of the Bible.
The word Paraclete refers to someone who comes to stand by us and protect and gives us support. The term is equivalent to a defence lawyer in a court of law, or an expert who comes in to solve a problem. It is a person who gives us courage to face great difficulties or a person who comforts us in difficult situations. Hence the Biblical meaning of Helper, Advocate, Protector, Comforter, and Consoler is more appropriate. All the above meanings are applicable to the Spirit of truth that Jesus promises to send on his disciples to be with them in all the trials them and the Church will face. This advocate is the Spirit of truth, not in a narrow dogmatic sense, but in the sense that he communicates a vision of life that is totally in harmony with the vision of God himself and of Jesus.
He is the spirit that is beyond everything. The world general is blind to such truth and cannot recognise Him. Jesus’ disciples, however, are different. They will know him understand him and be one with him because of Jesus. Only those with the vision that faith gives can recognise the presence of the Spirit around them and within them. Faith is a special and mysterious gift. Only those in faith can understand the spirit. However Jesus clarifies that the present moment is difficult for them to understand the gift of the spirit. He cannot be present with them always. Right now, he can only be present to them through the limitations of his human body. He can only be in one place at a time. After his resurrection he will be with them in a completely new way. This will happen through his new Body, the Church, and the community of disciples. Through this Body he can be everywhere in the world and at all times. Through the church Jesus remains present to all and they can visualise him in the eyes of faith.
The presence of Jesus is something new. His presence is one of love. In fact the Resurrection itself is the sign of his love to all. He is given to us by the Father with greater love. As often as love and compassion are shown to the neediest of the human community, Jesus is both loving and serving and being personally served and loved. That is what Jesus means when he says that “you will understand that I am in my Father and you in me and I in you”.
We are now aware of the divine presence as manifested in the Eucharist. God chooses to be present in the Trinitarian aspect. We can know by personal experience that “anybody who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I shall love him and show myself to him.” When we truly become loving persons to both friend and enemy, to family and strangers, we know that the Spirit of Jesus is living within and transforming us. Then, in the words of Jesus, we can see and, because we can see, we are fully alive.
Anecdote: A little child went to the Parish Priest and aske, Father, what is the colour of God’s eyes. Confused at first the priest quietly looked at the little girl and called her close to him and said: My child the colour of God’s eyes is blue, just like your eyes. This is because you are created in God’s image. The child was so happy and she ran to her mother to give the good news: Mom God has blue eyes like me. Isn’t it great?