This Gospel is part of what is known as the Last Supper Discourse. They had a difficulty understanding this when they heard it before the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. We hear it, not only after these events, but also after both the Ascension and Pentecost. We also have two thousand years of Christianity behind us that provides us with the reflections, teachings and experiences of the presence of the Triune God in our lives and the life of the Church. It is difficult for us to capture the emotion of the Apostles when they heard Jesus give them this farewell instruction. He would not leave them orphans and would send another Advocate to be with them. Why was he leaving them? Where was he going? Would they ever see him again? What were they to do next? are probably some of the questions that went through their minds. In his discourse Jesus answers these questions.
He begins by making the statement; “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Jesus teaches us to view commandments in a new way, that was different than how the first followers had been taught by the Pharisee Commandments are not merely a list of behaviors to be followed or avoided out of duty. Commandments are to be lived as an act of love. If we love someone we do what pleases them. This love moves us to do things we might not want to do, and even things that we might see as being difficult or a sacrifice. Jesus calls us to look at the commandments through the prism of love and to live them out of our love for God..
Jesus promised the apostles the Advocate. This is the Holy Spirit we received at Baptism and Confirmation. In two weeks we complete the Easter Season with the Celebration of Pentecost. This Gospel serves as a good reminder to prepare for Pentecost. On the day of your Confirmation the Bishop, or Administer of that Sacrament, said, “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Jesus is preparing the Apostles for the Advocate, the Holy Spirit. We are sealed with the Holy Spirit. Prepare for Pentecost by claiming that gift. Take time to realize all that the Holy Spirit has to offer us and don’t hesitate to call upon this gift to strengthen and guide us.
Finally, Jesus speaks of unity. There is the unity of the Trinity that he speaks about as he teaches us about the Advocate, and revealing to us that he and the Father are one. Jesus invites us to experience the Love of our Father, The grace that flows from him, and the unity of the Holy Spirit that binds them into one God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
There is also the unity of the believers to Christ. Jesus taught that, “Whatever you do to the least of my brothers you do to me.” St. Paul experienced this on the road to Damascus when he heard the voice say, “Why do you persecute me.” The unity of the body of Christ – of us with Christ – should not be underrated. It is a beautiful part of God’s love that binds us to him.
All of this comes from the unconditional love God has for us. Reflect on all that God has done for us and is doing for us out of this great love. Who would not want to love in return, and thus follow his commandments?
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.