6th Sunday of Easter (A)
The promise of the Spirit
1. Opening prayer
Father, Christ your Son is already pleading for us, but through your Word, which is life for us, you also grant us the grace of opening our hearts to you in deep, intense, true and enlightened prayer. Send us the Consoler, the Spirit of truth, not only that he may dwell beside us, but that he may always dwell within our hearts. He is the fire of love that unites you with Jesus, the kiss that you exchange always. Grant that, through your Word, we too may enter into this love and live by it. Touch our spirit, our mind and all our being that we may welcome the commandments, hidden in these few verses; that we may keep them, that is, live them fully and in truth in your presence and that of our brothers and sisters. Amen.
a) To place the passage in its context:
These verses lead us to the holy place where Jesus celebrates the last supper with his disciples: the place of his revelation, of his glory, of his teaching and of his love. Here, we too are invited to sit at table with Jesus, to lean on his chest, receive his commandment and thus prepare ourselves to enter with Him into his Passion and resurrection. After the passage of 13: 1-30, which tells us of the actions, words and feelings of Jesus and of those with him during the paschal meal, in 13: 31 we hear the words of the great last discourse of Jesus, which ends with the priestly prayer of chapter 17. Here, then, we are still at the beginning. In 14: 1-14 Jesus presented and offered himself as the way to the Father, whereas in these few verses he introduces the promise to send the Holy Spirit, as Consoler, as sure presence, but also the promise of the coming of the Father and of himself in the depths of the disciples who, through faith, will have believed in him and kept his commandments.
b) To help us in the reading of the passage:
vv. 15-17: First, Jesus clarifies to his disciples that for Him, love, if it is to be true love, must absolutely mean also the observance of his commandments. In brief, He wants to tell us that if we do not keep the commandments then there is no love; this is an essential and indispensable consequence, which reveals whether we really do love or only deceive ourselves that we love. Jesus also says that the gift of the Holy Spirit from the Father is the fruit of this love and observance that give rise to the prayer of Jesus, thanks to which we can receive the Spirit. Jesus explains that the Spirit is the Consoler, the Spirit of truth, the One whom the world does not see, does not know, but whom the disciples will see and know, the One who dwells with them and in them.
vv. 18-20: Jesus promises his coming, his return, which is about to happen in his resurrection. He says that he will no longer appear in his passion, death and burial, but that he will reappear to his disciples, who will see him, because he is the resurrection and the life. He also reveals his relationship with the Father and invites them and us into that relationship; in fact, he says that we shall know, that is we shall experience this relationship in our depths. Jesus and no one else could ever promise a greater consolation than this.
v. 21: Here Jesus’ discourse includes everyone; he moves from the “you” of his disciples to the “anyone” who begins to love him, enter into a relationship with him and follow him. That which took place for the disciples, the first chosen ones, takes place for anyone who believes in him. Here Jesus opens to us and to all his relationship of love with the Father, because by remaining in Christ, we too are known and loved by the Father. Finally, Jesus promises again his love for anyone who loves him and the revelation of himself, that is, a permanent manifestation of his love for us.
c) The text:
15 If you love me you will keep my commandments. 16 I shall ask the Father, and he will give you another Paraclete to be with you for ever, 17 the Spirit of truth whom the world can never accept since it neither sees nor knows him; but you know him, because he is with you, he is in you. 18 I shall not leave you orphans; I shall come to you. 19 In a short time the world will no longer see me; but you will see that I live and you also will live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father and you in me and I in you. 21 Whoever holds to my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves me; and whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I shall love him and reveal myself to him.'
3. A moment of prayerful silence
so that the Word of God may enter into us and enlighten our life.
4. Some questions
a) This passage begins and ends with the same words: the proclamation and invitation to love the Lord. I know that, through this lectio divina, he wants to prepare me for a powerful meeting with love; perhaps I am frightened a little, I know that I am not used to this, perhaps I am ashamed, perhaps I feel superior towards these sugary words. But he insists and keeps on repeating only this, only Love. So what am I going to do? Am I going to stay and enter into this relationship, so involved, so upsetting? Or shall I go away, run away, because I am afraid, because I don’t feel like committing myself? Shall I choose Love, that is, this relationship, this confrontation, this exchange, this reciprocal giving, this giving of myself? Or shall I choose to be closed, remain alone in an absurd isolation of one who does not want to stay with his God and with his equals? Jesus says: “If you want”; He does not force. However, I know that he is waiting for me and has been so for a long time… why wait any longer?
b) I read and read again this passage, so that these words, so full of meaning, may be better imprinted on my mind and descend into my heart. I note that Jesus insistently says “you”, when referring to his disciples, those then with him but also those of today, that is us, each one of us seen and looked at by Him with a unique, personal, unrepeatable love that cannot be given away or substituted. I know that I too am included in that “you”, which seems generic but is not. I try to read again Jesus’ words and allow myself to be involved more directly; I place myself face to face, eyes to eyes with Jesus and let him tell me all, using that “you” full of love, using my name that only he really knows…. If you love me, my Father will send you another Consoler; you know him; he dwells near you and will be within you; I shall not leave you an orphan, I shall come back to you; you will see me; you will live; you will know that I am in the Father and you in me and I in you.
c) Now we meet an important expression of Jesus, repeated twice:
“keep my commandments”. This is an important and fundamental
fact, because the authenticity of my love relationship with the Lord
depends on it; if I do not keep his commandments, then I do not love
him. But I try to ask myself more carefully what does the verb “keep”
mean, which looks so cold, so distant. I find it for instance in Mt
27: 36, where we read that the soldiers kept watch over the crucified
Jesus; it is then a matter of close and scrupulous watching, an untiring
watchfulness. On the other hand in Jn 2: 10, it appears with the meaning
of keeping in store, reserving, as Jesus says of the good wine
kept until last. 2 Timothy 4: 7 uses the verb in that wonderful verse
on faith: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course,
I have kept the faith”. This emphasises the effort, the great care used
to safeguard and watch over that precious thing, faith. In Jn
17: 15, Jesus prays the Father to keep his own from the evil one, that
is to preserve, protect, so that nothing and no one would harm
or disperse them.
5. A key to the reading
The following are the people I meet in the passage: the Father, Jesus, the Spirit, the disciples, the world.
The Father. The presence of the Father immediately appears
as the point of reference of Jesus, the Son. It is to the Father that
he addresses his prayer. He says: “I will ask the Father”. It
is this very special and intimate contact that makes of Jesus the Son
of his Father, that confirms him all the time as such. The relationship
of love with the Father is nourished and maintained by prayer at night,
at different times during the day, in times of need, in requests for
help, in suffering, in the most distressing trials. If we scan the Gospels
several times, we shall find Jesus thus, deeply involved in a relationship
with the Father through prayer. Here are some relevant passages: Mt
6: 9; 11, 25; 14: 23; 26: 39; 27: 46; Lk 21: 21ff; 6:12; 10: 21; 22:
42; 23: 34. 46; Jn 11: 41ff; 17: 1. I feel that this is also the way
for me; Jesus followed this way in depth, leaving me his enlightened
and certain footsteps so that I may have no fear in following him in
a similar experience. I too am the child of the Father, I too can pray
Jesus the Son. In these few verses, the figure and presence
of Jesus appear forcefully and with enormous clarity. He is immediately
seen as praying, the one who prays to the Father for us; he raises
his hands in prayer for us, just as he raises them in oblation on the
The Holy Spirit. In this passage the Spirit of the Lord
seems to be an emerging figure that embraces everything. He unites the
Father to the Son, he brings the Father and the Son into the hearts
of the disciples; he creates an indissoluble union of love, of being.
He is called the Paraclete, that is the Consoler, the one who
stays with us always, who will not leave us alone, abandoned,
forgotten; he comes and gathers us from the four winds, from the dispersion
and blows within us the strength for our return to the Father, to Love.
Only he can work all this within us; he is the finger of God’s hand
who, to this day, writes on the sand of our hearts the words of a new
covenant, which can never again be forgotten.
The Disciples. The words Jesus addresses to his disciples
are words that challenge me more directly, more forcefully; they are
addressed to me, they impinge on my day to day life, they touch my heart,
my thoughts, my most intimate desires. They challenge me to a true love
that I must transform into concrete actions, keeping in mind the Word
and the wish of the one I claim to love, the Lord. A love that can be
verified by my observance of the commandments. The disciple,
then, here appears as one who knows how to wait for his Lord on his
return; at midnight, at cockcrow, or early in the morning? It does not
matter; He will come back and so I must wait and be ready. What kind
of love is it that will not wait, that will not watch, not protect?
The World. The passage says little about the world,
which we know to be very important in the writings of John: the world
cannot receive the Spirit, because it cannot see or know him.
The world is immersed in darkness and error; it does not see or know
and cannot experience the love of God. The world stays at a distance,
turns its back, closes itself and goes away. The world repays with hatred
the love that the Lord has for it: the Father has so loved the world
that he gave his only Son. Perhaps we too must also love the world,
created by God; love it by uniting ourselves to the offering, the sacrifice
of Jesus for it.
6. A moment of prayer: Psalm 22
Ref. You are with me, Lord, there is nothing I want!
Yahweh is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
7. Closing prayer
Lord, you fill me with your love; I abound with joy and deep peace.
Through your Word, You have loved me much during this meeting. You have
given yourself to me fully; you have neglected nothing in me, my person,
my whole life history. Lord, I am because you are; you are with me,
within me. Today you have given me a new birth from above, you have
renewed me; I know, I see, I feel your own life in me. This is a real
Pasch, a true passing from death to life. Thank you, Lord, for your
inexpressible love, which covers me, overpowers me and yet relieves
and uplifts me!
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