6th Sunday of Easter - May 14, 2023

 

6th Sunday of Easter - May 14, 2023

Acts 8: 5-8; 14-17; 1 Peter 3: 15-18; John 14: 15-21

Theme: “If You Love Me, you will Keep My Commandments”

We are on the sixth Sunday of Easter. Next Sunday will be the Ascension of the Lord, and the following one will be the solemnity of Pentecost. So, we are approaching the end of the Easter season and ready to resume the Ordinary Time (which is the time of growth and maturation of Christians in the Church of Jesus). To prepare us for this transition, the Church, our mother, suggests for our meditation the “Last Super Discourse” in chapter 14 of the Gospel of John which we started reading last Sunday. Note that in this discourse, Jesus instituted the sacraments of the Eucharist (Mass) and the Holy Order (Priesthood). In this same discourse, he spoke to his disciples of his death, resurrection, ascension, and the coming of the Holy Spirit. It is in this Discourse that Jesus prepared his friends to transit from the time they related to him in person to the “age of the Church” in which they and all of us experience his presence in the celebration of the Eucharist and other sacraments in his Church that he just founded.

In the Gospel that we heard last Sunday, Jesus told his disciples that there were many dwelling places in his “Father’s House.” In addition to the interpretation in which “Father’s house” can point to heaven, we saw that by the “Father’s House”, Jesus meant the Temple or the Church in this present time where his disciples and all believers will be meeting with him and the Father whenever they gather together with their fellow believers in the celebration of the Eucharist and other sacraments. The first reading story of that Sunday was a very good example of the gathering of the early Christians in the Church, the “Father’s house”. And in the second reading, Peter called this “Father’s House” a “Spiritual House”. He portrayed Christians as stones built into this “Spiritual House” with Jesus being the foundation stone. This means that you and I are parts of the “Father’s house”, which is our local Church Saint Bartholomew/Saint Augustine with Jesus the foundation that sustains our Church.

Then, at the age of the Church, how Jesus’ disciples can continue showing their love for Jesus whom they will no longer see physically? This is what Jesus teaches us in today’s Gospel passage. He connects Love for him to (1) the observance of his commandments and (2) the Holy Spirit. There is one thing that proves that his followers including you and I love Jesus. This thing is “keeping Jesus’ commandments”. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14, 15). Here we see the unity of Love and Law. It is an error to think that Jesus came to free us from moral obligation. There is no contradiction between Law and Love because Jesus’s commandments (Law) guide us toward the behavior that is loving (Love).

What are Jesus’ commandments then? First, Jesus’s commandments are found in the ten commandments of God that educate us on how to love God (the first three) and how to love our fellow humans (the last seven). In all his teachings, Jesus focused on these ten commandments that he summarized into two: Love of God and Love of our neighbors as we love ourselves. Let us recall that in our Gospel section, the Last Supper Discourse, Jesus instituted the Church that he entrusted to his disciples and their descendants. By instituting his Church, Jesus wants his followers to experience his continual presence in the celebrations of the Eucharist and other sacraments. So, besides the ten commandments of God, there are also five commandments of the Church (attend Mass on Sundays and days of obligation, confess your sins at least once a year, receive the Eucharist at least once a year, observe days of fasting and abstinence, and provide for the needs of the Church). These precepts instruct us about our obligations to the Church of Jesus. So, we can say that we love Jesus when we observe these ten commandments of God and the five precepts of the Church.

In our Gospel, Jesus also connects the love for him to the Holy Spirit. “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always (…) (v. 16). In this verse 16, the Spirit is given by the Father at Jesus’s request. But in John 15: 26, Jesus himself sends the Spirit from the Father. “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me.” (John 15: 26, NABRE). According to the Christian tradition, the Holy Spirit comes from the Father through the Son and from the Father and the Son. Also, notice, Jesus speaks of the Spirit as “another Advocate” to mean that he himself the Son has been the first Advocate (see 1 John 2: 1) who lived with his disciples physically. Now, the third Person of the Trinity, “another Advocate” will come to live with them and us spiritually. Jesus calls the Spirit “Paraclete”. (NJB). Paraclete signifies “Advocate”, “Helper”, “Counselor”, or “Mediator”.

Jesus defines the role of the Holy Spirit as the one who will animate a “seeing” of the Lord’s presence. Christians will see what the world cannot see or know. (See v. 17). Other roles of the “Paraclete” include completing the revelation of Christ by enlightening the Church of Jesus concerning the true and full meaning of what the Son has taught and accomplished. (Cf. John 2, 22; 14: 26; Acts 11: 15). Notice how the Holy Spirit has things in common with the Son. Jesus calls him “the Spirit of truth. “Truth” has been a characteristic of the Son (John 1: 14; 14: 6), and here it is also the characteristic of the Holy Spirit. Also, Jesus says that the world cannot accept the Holy Spirit, because it neither sees nor knows it. (v. 17). This alludes to how the same world failed to accept the Son and see in him the revelation of the Father (see John 1: 10-11). Unlike the world, the disciples know the Holy Spirit because he remains with them and will be in them. (v. 17b). Here Jesus affirms that the Holy Spirit is both in the Church and in every Christian. The age of the Church is the era of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit enables Christians to recognize the presence of the Son, Jesus, in the Church through the sacrament of the Eucharist and other sacraments.

Jesus promises his disciples and all of us that he will not leave us orphans; he will come to us (v. 18). He comes to us every day. He is with us. We just need to use our eyes of faith to recognize his presence among us. He tells us that while the world (meaning those who do not believe in him) will no longer see him, we who believe in him will see him because, as he says, “I live and you will live” (v. 19). Jesus is present in the Church. We see him in the Holy Eucharist, the priest who celebrates the Holy Mass, and the assembly of the believers who partake in the celebration of the Eucharist.

One of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to enable us to recognize the presence of Jesus. And to recognize Jesus is to recognize the Father. John teaches here the doctrine of the oneness of the Holy Trinity. Jesus is in the Holy Spirit and in the Father. Notice how he associates us with the Holy Trinity: “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me and I in you.” (See v. 20).

As the disciples make a transition to the age of the Church (the time in which they will experience Jesus, no longer physically, but spiritually), Jesus exhorts them to love him by keeping everything that he taught them while he was with them in person. All his teachings are summarized into the mission that he gave his disciples to go all over the world and make the people his disciples. He is asking his followers and each of us to continue his mission in the Church. We who keep this commandment of continuing his mission in the Church, he promises us that he and his Father will love us and he will reveal himself to us (v. 21).

Let us observe what our Lord commands us. We need to strengthen the faith of our Church members by proclaiming the Word of God, as Philip did in the story we heard in our first reading, and by example even in suffering as 1 Peter teaches us in our second reading. Amen.

 

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