Have you ever said to someone, “Well, why didn’t you say that?” Sometimes details matter – the little things we say and do. Sometimes a word, a phrase or a sentence, a touch, a look, a gesture can change everything. That is the case today in the gospel of St. John.
We read, “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 forever.”
This line can be used to beat people up or it can be used to encourage. Some people read this line and they suggest if you sin you are not keeping the Lord’s commandments and therefore you will not receive the Spirit of God. God does not love us if and when we get things right. God loves us!
The sense of this text according to scripture scholars is this: it is an invitation, an exhortation to love. Everything is about to change – Jesus is about to die and he is speaking to his disciples just before his death. Jesus wants to deepen within them the connection between love and following the law. Loving someone and obeying the Law are not mutually exclusive. Love is the one thing that will sustain them as leaves them. Loving one another can change everything. They are not going to be alone. Even if he is not going to be present to them in the same way.
The deeper my love the greater my respect for the other. The Spirit is being sent by Jesus, by the Father to remain with us, not just for a day, until the end of the pandemic; the Spirit is with us forever. The closer we are to Jesus the greater our ability to recognize the presence of Jesus/the call of Jesus. This gospel story stresses the desire of Jesus to remain with his disciples, to encourage and support and teach them. The death of Jesus will not mean that the disciples are forgotten or abandoned. The love and respect that God has for us, is called forth from us. We are invited to do for God what God does for us.
In our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles we hear how there are many disciples, followers of Jesus but they have not received the Holy Spirit. We are told the Apostles send Peter and John to them to pray over them and to bestow upon them the Spirit. The Apostles want them to know they are NOT alone.
In his letter to the Christian community, Peter invites the early Christians to trust in the power of the Spirit at work in them. Peter reminds them that living a good life frees up space for the Spirit to work. We can hear the call of the Spirit if we are not preoccupied with what we want to have happen for our own selves - we recognize more readily the call and the work of the Spirit in the world.
So what has that got to do with us.
The Spirit is in us, at work. We may not consciously see what the Spirit is doing but Jesus assures us that WE ARE NOT ALONE. Perhaps we don’t see the work of the Spirit but the Spirit is real nonetheless. This calls forth from us TRUST. We are invited to trust that God is with us and that regardless of what happens God will hold us.
This TRUST opens us up and enables us to serve one another because that is what Jesus has done. There is a relationship between love and good deeds. We know that we have faith when we forget about ourselves and reach out to care for the other. A sign of faith is to put the other first. Our behavior our choices can stifle the work and the voice of the Spirit or they can set the Spirt loose in the world. When I am constantly attending to my own needs, my own concerns, my own dreams, my own desires there is no room for the other and there is no room for God.
We know we are on the path to wholeness and to life when we care for ourselves AND when we reach out to help others. Holding this tension of care for self and care for the other is our daily work.
Perhaps this week we can unlock the power of the Spirit in our world by reaching out to someone to let them know they are loved. I issue you an invitation – this week – each day do something that reminds another person that they matter. Touch the lives of seven people with goodness, with small, selfless acts of love. When we do that, the world will know that God is real, that God dwells in us and that we dwell in God.
We are not alone. God is alive just as Jesus promised. The Spirit is in us!
Fr. Doug Jeffrey, OMI