6th Sunday of Easter (C)

The abiding presence of God in the human soul

The Gospel proclamation underlines the nature of Christ’s testament of love, the legacy that we need to translate in order to be His faithful disciples. Last Sunday we reflected on the commandment and today it is about the manifestations of the love of God expressed in communion and relationship that we experience as a result of our openness to God. The evangelist John records the words of Jesus to his disciples: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. Yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me” (Jn. 15:23-24).The proof of our “love” for Jesus is that we keep his “word” and in turn we will experience the “love” of the Father, and the Father and Jesus will “abide” (make their home) in us. If we only had those words from Jesus and nothing else, they would be enough to guide us through life and point us in the right direction.

 The “word” of Jesus embraces everything we know about him through the Scripture – his words, his actions, his relationships with people of all kinds, the guiding principles of his life, his values and attitudes. Jesus is the “Word” of God not only because of what comes from his lips but from the whole impact of his life from his birth in an animals’ shelter at Bethlehem to the appalling last moments of agony and humiliation on the Cross. To “keep Jesus’ words” is to embrace all of that, to identify with it and make it real in the particular context of my own life.

The abiding presence of God in the human soul:The promise of God’s abiding presence must have been of great comfort to John’s community who knew that the Temple in Jerusalem — the symbol of God’s presence with His people — had been destroyed by the Roman army.  In today’s gospel passage, Jesus tells us that the one thing in life, which we can always trust is God’s presence. God inhabits our hearts so deeply and intimately that we become the visible dwelling place of God.  This living and life-affirming presence is always with us, yet ‘hidden’ in the very things we so often take for granted.  Thus we are invited to look for and encounter ‘God-with-us,’ yet ‘hidden’ — hidden in the person sitting next to us, in the words we speak and the songs we sing at worship. 

“The light of the World”is the title of a famous picture painted by Holman Hunt. It shows thorn crowned Jesus with a lantern in his hand knocking on a closed door and is based on those lovely words of Christ in Revelation: “Listen, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into his house and eat with him and he will eat with me.”(Rev. 3, 20) The door is the human heart and it is said that the artist, having completed the picture, showed it to some friends, who praised the merit of the painting. One of them pointed out what he considered an omission on the part of the artist.  The artist reply was spontaneous that we should open to the light, because the handle is on the inside.

The role of the Holy Spiritis twofold: a) to “teach” the disciples and b) to “remind” them of what Jesus has already taught them (v. 26).  Jesus affirmed that even though he would no longer be with them physically, he would continue to be present among them through His Holy Spirit.  The Spirit of truth would continue teaching them and helping them to understand and to build on what Jesus had already taught them.  The Advocate would bring no new revelation because God had already revealed Himself in Jesus.  But the Advocate would deepen their understanding of the revelation given by Jesus.

Jesus gives his followers four gifts:  First, he gives them his love, which will enable them to keep his word. Next, he gives them the Holy Spirit, who will teach them everything they need to know. The Holy Spirit is the abiding love of God available to us, enabling us to accept the friendship of Jesus, while imitating Him, the Master.   Third, he gives them his peaceto strengthen them against fear in the face of trouble. Here “peace” is not just the absence of conflict, but also the far wider concept of shalom, the total well-being of the person and community.  The promise of the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, will bring a peace that will quell their fears of the unfolding darkness ahead. “In Johanninelanguage, peace, truth, light, lifeand joyare figurative terms reflecting different facets of the great gift that Jesus has brought from God to the world. “Peace is my gift to you,” is another way of saying, “I give them eternal life” (Jn.10:28) (Raymond E. Brown). The Holy Spirit is available as comforter and guide to those who believe in Jesus and follow in his way. God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are pure love. This love of God and Jesus and the Spirit comes and lives in us, takes up residence in us and lives in our body. When God’s love lives in us, there is much more peace in our families, our churches, our offices.  Fourth, Jesus rewards them with the assurance of his second coming.

Let us be aware of the abiding presence of God within us:We live in the New Covenant of Jesus, daily facing uncertainty, conflict, and temptations.  It is the abiding presence of God within us that enables us to face the future with undying hope and true Christian courage.  The Spirit of the risen Lord promptsus to turn to His Holy Scriptures for support and encouragement, enablesus to learn the divine truths, and grantsus His peace at all times.  However, to be able to receive these gifts, it is necessary for us to spend a little time each day in personal prayer talking to God and listening to Him.  We must deepen our relationship with Jesus, learn to get in touch with him, and sincerely love him.  When we listen to the Holy Spirit, we will   know His plan for our life and His solutions to whatever problems we face.  We will be able to love our fellow human beings, and there will be a core of peace within us.  The Holy Spirit teaches us through the Scriptures and comes to us in Communion.   When the Mass is ended, we go forth in the peace of Christ — all this under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.