Friday, May 2, 2008

Sixth Sunday of Easter

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.But you know him, because he remains with you,and will be in you.I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.In a little while the world will no longer see me,but you will see me, because I live and you will live.On that day you will realize that I am in my Fatherand you are in me and I in you.Whoever has my commandments and observes themis the one who loves me.And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father,and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”


Today’s Gospel is one of those readings that cause the reader to stop and ask… “What is Jesus talking about?!” “The spirit of truth will remain in you” I am in my father and he is in me and me in you” I have to admit that my first reaction to these passages was: Is this some kind of divine riddle?
However when I started looking closely to what Jesus was saying I realized that by using this type of language (Me in you, you in me) what he is doing is explaining the mysterious relationship between the three persons of the most Holy Trinity by using another mystery: The mystery of the human heart. What do I mean by this? With this language Jesus is using the fact that as humans we have the capacity to allow certain people to live within us as well as they have the capacity to allow us to live within them.
Think of the people you love the most, your children, your friends, your spouse’s… we have all given these people a tremendous power over ourselves, the power to make us happy or hurt us deeply. But, how do we do this? Well… the best way to describe it is that we have given a part of ourselves to these people and in turn we have allowed them to place part of themselves in us. We even have a term for this… “We share our lives together” with these very special people. Their joys become our joys and their pains become our pains. It is as if part of them lived in us and part of us lived in them.
So when Jesus wants to teach us about the mysterious relationship between Himself, the Father and Holy Spirit, He does it in a way that we might not understand with our heads but that, if we try, we can understand with our hearts.
However, in today’s gospel reading Jesus not only wants to teach us about His relationship with the father, but more importantly he wants to teach us how we can achieve the same type of relationship with God. Just look at the way He frames this whole idea of “the father is me and me in you and you in me” between two very similar phrases. The reading starts with: “If you loved me you will follow my commands” and ends with “whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.” In between these two statements He explains that those who show their love for Him in this way will not be left orphans, they will receive the Spirit of Truth that will make them realize that they are in Jesus and Jesus is in them, sharing in the same type of relationship Jesus and the Father share. So, and this is a very important point, participation in this type of relationship with God, is not based in our wishes to be closed to Him or in making declarations of our love for Jesus but in the simple fact that we follow His commandments.
Now why couldn’t Jesus just explain it in simple terms like these? My brothers and sisters I believe that the answer to this question is the real message of today’s Gospel. Think about it this way, Jesus wants us to follow His commandments but, what are these commands we need to follow? Yes, scripture gives us the 10 commandments, but the reality is, these are very general statements. As followers of Jesus in this day and age when we are confronted with issues that are a lot more complex than just the language Jesus uses in the Gospel today, how are we to know what to do? What course of action is “following Jesus commands”?
The point is that Jesus didn’t say “Ok guys here is a book figure it all out by yourselves” He established a Church to instruct us in how to follow His commands. In the same way that you listened as I interpreted the scripture, we as Catholics are called to listen to the teachings of the Church to get answers to the problems of our modern world.
The same spirit of truth Jesus is introducing to us in this reading has been inspiring in the Church for 2000 years! In the wisdom of the Church we can find answers to all the spiritual, moral and ethical problems of our times.
However our modern world condemns this wisdom as antiquated and impinging in our freedoms, but you know what? Jesus knew this was going to happen this is why He was very clear when he said that the world cannot accept the wisdom of the Holy Spirit because the world cannot see and do not know this spirit.
If we are to follow Jesus commands, if we are to know the Spirit of Truth, we must follow what the Church teaches. Think about it this way the Church cannot be right in some things but wrong in others. This is not the way the Spirit of Truth operates. We cannot say “I believe the Church when it says this is the body of Christ, but the Church is wrong about its stand on things like abortion and the sanctity and dignity of all human life”.
Been Catholic is not a matter of picking and choosing what teachings of the Church we agree with, been Catholic is a way of life that permeates everything we do and think, it’s a way of life that when lived in accordance to Jesus wishes, will go against the grain of everything the world stands for. Being Catholic is not just telling Jesus “we love you Lord”, its showing this love by following His commands; by trusting in wisdom of the Holy Spirit in His Church.
And if we disagree with a specific teaching of the Church, it is up to us to find out, why does the Church teach what it teaches? I assure you my brothers and sisters, if we do this, if we take time to learn our Catholic faith, we will be surprised about how much our point of view becomes very different that the point of view of the world.
Only then we will be certain we are following Jesus commands, only then we will be able to share in the same relationship that Jesus and the Father share, and like the Gospel says, only then the Father will give us the Spirit of truth and Jesus will reveal Himself to us. Amen.