Acts 15:1-2, 22-29; Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23; John 14:23-29
The Gospel of today invites us to live the Easter Spirit in calmness and peace and reassurance that we all need so much. He tells them that he is ready to give them Peace which he will leave with them. He gives them his own peace. The peace he gives is much different from the peace that the world will give them for he is unique and he is concerned about them. He reassures them that although he going away from them he will still be with them till the end. The First Reading, however, reflects the areas of difference and conflict that are bound to arise when Christians come face to face with new problems and new questions for the articulation of their faith. Such conflicts, when properly handled, are necessary, even desirable, if we are to have a deeper understanding of the real meaning of our faith in a changing world. The second reading gives them the assurance that the Lamb will be supreme and it will give them the joy and confidence and the Lamb will be the light for them. In all the three readings we have the common theme of the Christian Spirit and we are called to do all things in the spirit with the Spirit of Christ.
First Reading of today tells us that the Christian spirit does not come by itself. One has to strive towards it by seeking the Divine Will of God and then by embracing the final decision of the authority of the Church. In the early days of the Church, certain individuals came down from Judea and taught that unless one was circumcised according to the custom of Moses, he could not be saved. Seeking the Divine Will of God on the matter, Paul, Barnabas and some of the others were sent to Jerusalem to consult the apostles and the elders. Consequently the Church authority made a decision on the matter and sent Barsabbas and Silas to report back to the believers. Through these progressive actions is seen the Christian spirit at work. To walk in the Christian spirit also involves the embracing of certain characteristics. The first, and the most important, is the attribute of unity, all the members being of one spiritual mind. Through unity, there is harmony. Through harmony, there is strength. Through strength, there is perseverance in the living faith. And in the end, those who are joined in the Christian spirit, they achieve their goal, eternal life and salvation through Jesus Christ.
Today’s Second Reading tells us that the Christian spirit at work through some of the descriptive words that are given to us. “I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.” Here we are able to perceive the unity of the people under One God, the Lamb. There are no idols. Nor are there any man-made religions any where. We also perceived the people’s quality of holiness because they all belonged to the city of Jerusalem which is a holy city. Jerusalem comes as a holy city from heaven where there are the foundations of the twelve tribes of Israel is laid. Jerusalem was the God’s choice for his dwelling. In the Holy of Holies he dwelt on the wings of the Cherubim which surrounded the Ark of the Covenant. The city itself has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.”
The Gospel of today tells us of the Christian unity in those who obeyed the command of Jesus. This is directly applicable to the disciples as it is applied to us today. The command of Jesus was, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” The fact that God loves us and comes and makes his dwelling within us is a great blessing. This is the longing of every Christian and therefore Jesus says where two or three are gathered in his name, he is present there with them. Those who love Jesus, they are of one spiritual mind with the others who also obey the command of the Lord. The proof of our “love” for Jesus is that we keep his “word” and in turn we will experience the “love” of the Father, and the Father and Jesus will “abide” (make their home) in us. If we only had those words from Jesus and nothing else, they would be enough to guide us through life and point us in the right direction. When considering our presence here today, it is a sign of our Christian spirit. United in one Faith in the Lord Jesus, we are gathered here to adore and worship our Lord, our God. In the Catholic spirit, we are united to receive the blessings that are bestowed upon those who receive the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist that is the Living Bread. For Jesus, love, by which he means loving, is achieved by “keeping his word”. The “word” of Jesus must not be limited to what we were taught as “commandments” or “doctrines” or moral behaviour, but embraces everything we know about him through the Scripture – his words, his actions, his relationships with people of all kinds, the guiding principles of his life, his values and attitudes.
Again in the Gospel we heard Jesus say, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” When we do not do all things in the spirit, our hearts are troubled. We are afraid because deep inside we know that we are in disobedience and the Wrath of God is pending. We are afraid because the Spirit of Christ talks to us in our hearts and reminds us that we are not walking in the spirit. The peace of Christ comes to us when we obediently submit ourselves to God’s Divine Will through the authority of the Church. Then, we are blessed with Divine peace; we are no longer troubled or afraid. The mixed feelings that we once had, they have faded away. Jesus gave us the peace which is secure in the midst of difficulties and storms. He himself showed the disciples how he could be peaceful in the midst of the storm in the sea and he was sleeping quietly. He gave us his peace to be shared with others.
We all are aware that peace is vital to us. We continue to consider external peace in special ways at times. Problems of internal peace such as undue anxiety, scrupulosity we consider all the time. Jesus made peace an important part of his last lessons the night before he died. He said that he was giving his gift of peace and not as the world gives that peace. His peace is lasting forever. The world means with peace the absence of war. It is a state of being left alone or not being burdened by undue worries or financial burdens. The peace that Jesus gives is active and builds up the mind, a disposition of the benevolence. But he calls his disciples to work for that peace and it has to be active and effective one. Thus the essential requirement of this peace is Love. Therefore Jesus says whoever loves me, keeps my word. The presence of Jesus itself was love.
Today’s Gospel reading from St John made reference to the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father would send in His Name. Such was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost when the Lord Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit upon His disciples. At that moment, the official ministry of the Holy Spirit had its beginning on earth. In making known to us the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ, the ministry of the Holy Spirit is twofold. The first goal is to build up the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Visible in nature with its seat in Rome, its invisible reflection is the holy city with its seat in Jerusalem where the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church had its beginning. The unity of the two forms the mystical Body of Christ, the Church also being known as the Bride of Christ. The second goal is to sanctify us in Christ so we may be purified and transformed in the likeness of Jesus.
Jesus promised us the Paraclete, the third person of the Godhead, to help give God’s peace to us. The word Paraclete is also translated as Advocate and is explained as comforter. But the Paraclete does more than to comfort. He is the mediator, defence attorney, the one who stands by us in time of need. When in difficulty he is always there with us to support guide and help. What the lawyer does for pay, the Paraclete does for love. As the Jesuit poet Hopkins said, the paraclete is the one who cheers, who encourages, who persuades, who exhorts, who stirs up, who urges forward, and who calls on. A Paraclete is zealous that we should do the good and leads us with assurance and strength, encouraging us and guiding every step we take.
Paraclete works at the human and divine level. It was said that Nathaniel Hawthorne went home one evening to tell his wife that he had lost his job at the custom house. She surprised him with joy and told him now s the time he can write his book. She told him that he was talented and all her life she had wished that he would do it. But he asked her on what they would survive in the meantime. She opened the drawer and showed him the weekly savings she had made from the household expense money and that would take them through the year. The result was the book scarlet Letters. This is what the advocate would do in our life.
Today in all of today’s three readings is that we are called to do all things in the spirit. Jesus said, “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” We ask the grace that we may be true to him and faithful in our response to the calling of the Spirit. Jesus wants us to have his peace and share it with others. But before we share with others we ourselves must enjoy this peace. He wants us to remember that if we are ill at ease in ourselves we cannot obtain his peace. Thomas Merton says: “If you are yourself at peace, then there is at least some peace in the world.” Again Jesus calls us to be the path finders in the world of today as in the early church and wants us to be light bearers in the world. We have the Holy Spirit to inspire us and guide us and he will show us the necessary path particularly in these days of storms and struggles.
Fr Eugene Lobo SJ, Rome