Saint Vincent Archabbey
Sixth Sunday of Easter,
To love Jesus means to trust him. And that means that we trust his radical teaching about an ideal of unselfish loving. Those who think this is dangerous foolishness belong to the "world," which is interested only in self-promotion and self-protection. The secular ideal is to take care of oneself first, and to think of others later…which too often means not at all.
Jesus knows that his teaching seems unpromising and so he sends to those who try to be unselfish an Advocate who is the "Spirit of truth." This divine Spirit will be present to our inmost being and will assure us that the path traced out by Jesus will in fact lead to freedom and joy. This powerful Spirit will also guide us in knowing how to love properly in all the circumstances of our lives.
Those who are truly concerned for the welfare of others will often appear foolish and may even be ridiculed for their apparently improvident behavior. But the Spirit will convince them that they are with Jesus, and therefore with the Father. For "… whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him."
As mere creatures, we are all vulnerable to a deep anxiety about personal extinction. For this reason, being self-centered becomes a kind of defense mechanism by which we struggle to hold ourselves together against all the forces of disintegration. The gospels tell us, however, that it is only by taking the risk of reaching out in love that our identity can be assured. Those who seem to gain their lives in this world by selfish behavior will lose it, and those who seem to lose their lives by loving others will gain it back again in the richest measure imaginable.
In attempting to live this paradox, we are assured of the gift of the divine Spirit, who will stand by us (which is what Paraclete/Advocate literally means) and will give us a deep confidence about the wisdom of the way of Jesus. Contrary to all expectations, the more we dare to reach out in love to others, the more our "home base" will be protected and strengthened.
When Jesus promised an Advocate to his disciples, who dreaded his imminent departure from them, he was telling them that he would be with them in this divine Spirit more truly than he had ever been present to them in the flesh. This re-assurance is meant for us also. Sometimes we may think that those who knew Jesus in his earthly life had a great advantage over us but this is not at all the case. Jesus is far more truly present now "in the Spirit" than he ever was in his bodily existence in Palestine. As we struggle to maintain our identity as good and loving persons, we must know that Jesus is ever at our side.
The most important consequence of this presence of Jesus in our lives is the profound conviction, given to us by the Spirit, that we are embraced by the heavenly Father’s love, just as Jesus was embraced by that love. This is what St. Paul tells us when he writes, "God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’" (Galatians 4:6). If we listen to this Spirit, we will become ever more confident, peaceful and generous in spite of the adversities that we may find in our lives.
Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.Sixth Sunday of Easter, Modern
Gospel: John 14: 15-21
In the Easter season the readings at mass are often taken from the Acts of the Apostles and focus on the rapid growth of the Church in its earliest days. In recording these events St. Luke gave encouragement to his readers because they were largely new Christians and it was important to assure them that they had joined the "winning team". St. Luke also wove into his writing the key elements of Christian life and belief, in effect teaching a brief catechism as he narrated the Acts.
Among the foundations of Christianity which he describes is the sacrament of baptism and the blessings it brings. When Peter and John prayed over the neophytes of Samaria, who had thus far "had only been baptized in the name of Jesus" (Acts 8:16), their initiation was completed and they received the same Holy Spirit that our Lord prophesied in the Gospel today: "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth" (John 14:16-17).
Jesus goes on to say that the Holy Spirit will come to remain with us and remind us of his own abiding presence—the Spirit would confirm all that Jesus taught us and strengthen us in living the faith: "He remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans" (John 14:17-18).
What our Lord said about the Spirit in the Gospel and what Peter and John teach the Samaritans is as true of us as it was in biblical times: we too receive the surpassing gift of the Holy Spirit when we are immersed in the waters of baptism, and its wonderful vitalizing effects endure as much today as they did in the New Testament era.
The First Letter of Peter assures us of this, urging us: "Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence" (1 Pet 3:15-16). It is the Spirit that inspires us in such moments of testimony, but we need our hearts to be open to the Spirit and indeed longing for it if we are to receive the fullness of its gifts.
While the Church is no longer in its infancy, as in the days of the Acts, we can still make a contribution to its vibrancy today by taking seriously the presence of the Spirit in our midst and seeking to hold fast, teach, and live the faith we profess.
The parents who lovingly and devoutly raised us, the saintly sister or priest we know, or the teacher or friend—or stranger—who helped us overcome a life devoid of such positive figures: all of these welcomed the Holy Spirit into their hearts and shared it with us.
Building upon their example, or bravely being willing to accept the gift of healing that carries us over the lack of such examples, it is our evangelical task to move forward in faith, sustained and renewed by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, "the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept…but you know him, because he remains with you, and will be in you" (John 14:17). Through the intercession of Saints Philip, Peter, and John and moved by the presence of the Holy Spirit may we "always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks us for a reason for our hope” (1 Pet 3:15).
Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.