Obedience is the path to loving Christ and living life to the full

6th Sunday of Easter (A)

Readings Acts 8:5-8. 14-17; Ps 65; 1 Pt 3:15-18; Jn 14:15-21

A reading from the holy Gospel according to John

Jesus said to his disciples:
‘If you love me you will keep my commandments.
I shall ask the Father,
and he will give you another Advocate
to be with you for ever,
that Spirit of truth
whom the world can never receive
since it neither sees nor knows him;
but you know him,
because he is with you, he is in you.
I will not leave you orphans;
I will come back to you.
In a short time the world will no longer see me;
but you will see me,
because I live and you will live.
On that day
you will understand that I am in my Father
and you in me and I in you.
Anybody who receives my commandments and keeps them will be one who loves me;
and anybody who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I shall love him and show myself to him.’

DURING these Sundays of the Easter Season, the Church takes us back to the Last Supper, giving us a chance to dig deeper into its meaning. Throughout his Last Supper discourse, Christ’s constant refrain is: if you love me, you will keep my commandment. They are special words. We need to hear them, to let them sink in. Because Jesus knows that these twelve men are normal, fallen human beings. They are weak and ignorant, stubborn, and headstrong. And yet, he also knows that they truly love him. That they want to be his disciples. They are just like us: flawed, but committed. And Jesus earnestly desires to teach them how to live out their commitment to him, and so he gives them his new commandment: love one another, as I have loved you.

In his gospel account, John never allowed the word love to devolve into a sentiment or emotion. Its expression is always concrete, always a moral act and, more importantly, it is revealed in obedience. Obedience to his word is the path to loving him and living life to the full. I remember a story of the former archbishop of Manila, the late Jaime Cardinal Sin, who is still fondly remembered in the Philippines for welcoming visitors to the bishop’s residence by saying “Welcome to the House of Sin.”

The former Archbishop of Manila, the late Jaime Cardinal Sin, fondly remembered welcoming visitors to “The House of Sin.”

Once, he celebrated his birthday and his family gave him an expensive set of pyjamas. But when the family visited him the following week for breakfast, they found the Cardinal’s trusted aide and driver wearing the expensive pyjamas. So they asked the Cardinal: “Why did give the pyjamas to your driver? We gave that out of love?” The Cardinal just smiled back and answered: “Well, I also gave it away out of love.” It was such a simple gesture but it shows clearly what following Christ was really all about: “Love one another as I have loved you.” To be a Christian is to be another Christ. But being like Christ is too much for us. If we depend just on our own strength, intelligence, and personality, we will never be able to fulfill the commandment that Jesus has given us—not all the time, not every day. We will become bitter, frustrated, burned out, angry, depressed. I was, in fact, reminded of this just yesterday. We were never meant to do it alone. And Jesus knows we cannot do it alone. This is what Jesus was speaking about when he promised that after he returned to heaven—an event we will commemorate next week on Ascension—he would send us an “Advocate, to be with us always.”

The Advocate is the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Blessed Trinity, who resides in our hearts. This is Christ’s greatest gift to us: our own inner source of supernatural light and strength to live out and, if needed, be reminded of the great commandment of Christian charity. But the Holy Spirit will not gatecrash into our hearts. He waits to be received. So when we think of the wonderful things which the Holy Spirit can do, surely we will put aside some time amid the busyness, the concerns and the anxieties in our lives and wait in silence for his coming.

Yet this same Spirit will make Christ present again in this Mass, and when we make our Spiritual Communion today, let us thank the Lord for this great gift, and let us ask for the grace to live by the power of this Spirit, just like Christ, loving one another as he has loved us. ###