6th Sunday of Easter
May 25, 2014
John 14: 15-21
St. Vincent’s Hospital, Harrison, N.Y.
“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept because it neither sees nor knows him’” (John 14: 15).
Today’s gospel reading comes from Jesus’ words at the Last Supper, addressed to the 11 faithful apostles after Judas had left the room. Since we want to be among his faithful disciples, he speaks to us as well.
Two key words in the reading are love and know. Jesus speaks of loving him, of being loved by the Father, and of his own love for his faithful disciples. He speaks of knowing or not knowing the Spirit of truth who is our Advocate.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” When we love someone, we’re really eager to please that person—a spouse, a parent, a child, or anyone with whom we form a special bond. For many people God’s commandments are just a set of burdensome rules, like parking regulations or the Internal Revenue code. No eagerness to observe those rules; they’re something we have to do or we’ll get in trouble. No love there!
But if you love someone, you go way out of your way for him or her. You remember birthdays and anniversaries, you buy flowers or tickets to a show, you help with chores, you spend time with that someone, you tend him when he’s sick. And it’s a pleasure, not a burden. Jesus loves us and wants to do good things for us and spend time with us—spend eternity with us, in fact. He wants us to love him, as well. If we love him, we want to listen to him, i.e., follow his teachings, keep his commandments.
But what are his commandments? How do we know what Jesus wants of us? Yes, we can memorize the 10 Commandments—and that’s a good thing to do. We can hear Jesus say several times at the Last Supper, “Love one another.” But what do those commandments mean today, in the 20th century?
Some things are pretty obvious in any century. Cold-blooded murder—not allowed! Adultery—not allowed! Lying so as to harm another person—not allowed!
But other things are less obvious. Jesus didn’t leave us specific guidelines about modern genetics, about end-of-life care in hospitals and nursing homes, about modern war, about care for the environment, about immigration policy, etc.
He did leave us something, however: “another Advocate … the Spirit of truth to be with you always.”
An advocate is someone who speaks for us before powerful people or in special situations. Lawyers advocate for us in court, for example. Jesus is our Advocate with his Father, interceding for us sinners. But, since he’s about to leave his disciples to go to his Father, he speaks here of “another Advocate,” who will remain with us and be with us always. This is the Holy Spirit.
You can see that the Church is preparing us for the feast of Pentecost thru our readings in these days. The 1st reading, from Acts, also spoke of the Holy Spirit.
This Advocate speaks in a different way, not interceding for us, but speaking to us on behalf of the Father and of Jesus. He is the Spirit of truth, Jesus says. He helps us understand the message of Jesus, which is the “truth that sets us free” (John 8:32); Jesus calls himself “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), so this Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus who keeps us in touch with Jesus, aligned with Jesus. He helps us to know what Jesus wants of us, his disciples, which is that we seek the truth and live the truth.
And when we want to know what is Jesus’ commandment today, how we are to love Jesus today, we listen to the Spirit of truth who remains with us, i.e., with the apostles, with the Church that’s built on the foundation of the apostles—as St. Luke so graphically illustrates when he describes Pentecost in Acts 2.
In a world with a never-ending supply of moral questions, questions about how to love one another authentically and not selfishly, the Spirit of truth speaks to us thru the Catholic Church, as the Spirit has done since the 1st Pentecost. The Church addresses every contemporary moral issue: life and death, war and peace, sexual morality, the universal dignity of human beings, care for the poor, the sick, those without any advantage in society, care for our environment—sometimes only in terms of general principles, sometimes in specific details, as she does on abortion, contraception, in vitro fertilization, stem cell research, for example. You may have noticed that not many people seem to pay attention to the Church’s teachings. Jesus said, “The world cannot accept the Spirit of truth because it neither sees nor knows him” (14:17).
The choice of living with the Spirit of Jesus, of loving Jesus by keeping his commandments, is ours. We committed ourselves to being his disciples, to walking in his ways, when we were baptized and confirmed. We have to recommit ourselves to him—to being in love with him and to seeking his truth—every day.
God bless you!