Gospel for Sixth Sunday of Easter (1 May 2016)
Gospel Notes by Michael Whelan SM
Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.
“I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.” (John 14:23-9 – NRSV)
This text begins with Jesus responding to a question from “Judas (not Iscariot)” who “said to him, ‘Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?’” (verse 22). One scholar writes: “This Judas is probably the one identified as (lit.) ‘Judas of James’ in Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13 .... His question is not so much why ...? as how is it ...? In view of the fact that none of the disciples entertained very clear notions of the resurrection of Christ before the fact, it is unlikely that Judas is specifically asking how it is Jesus will show himself, in his resurrection body, to the disciples and not to the world. By the same reasoning, his question cannot be taken as a clear reference to the Holy Spirit (cf. v. 17). Rather, Judas hears these distinctions between what the world will perceive or be given, and what the disciples will enjoy, and in his mind he cannot square this distinction with his belief that the kingdom must arrive in undeniable and irresistible splendour. If Jesus is the messianic king, then he must startle the world with apocalyptic self-disclosure. Indeed, a select reading of some Old Testament passages (e.g. Is. 11; Dn. 7; Hab. 3:3–15; Zc. 9), without compensating reflection on passages that speak of suffering and atonement, might be taken to sanction just such a stance.” (D A Carson, The Gospel according to John, W.B. Eerdmans, 1991, 503-504.)
the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name: The English word “Advocate” – from the Latin ad vocatus, meaning “called to (one’s side/aid)” and having clear legal reference – is used to translate the Greek paraklētos (παρακλητος). The Greek word is found four times in John’s Gospel (14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7) and once in 1 John 2:1, but nowhere else in the Christian Scriptures. The significance of the word paraklētos as used in the Gospel of John is not entirely clear. One scholar writes: “ .... it is best to stick to the anglicized ‘Paraclete’, which provides a distinct and recognizable name for the personage identified in the farewell discourse as ‘the spirit of truth’ (14:17; 15:26; 16:13) or ‘the Holy Spirit’ (14:26), thus performing for English-speaking readers the same service as paraklētos for readers of the original Greek and Paracletus for the readers of Jerome’s Vulgate.” (J Ashton, “Paraclete”, in D. N. Freedman (Ed.), The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (Vol. 5), Doubleday, 1992, 152.)
“Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (John 14:23) In order to understand this we need to set it in context. In a stunning passage found in 1 John 4:7-12, we have the statement: “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us.” John reminds us in this same passage that “God is love”. All love comes from God. For us, to love is to participate in God’s love. The call to love therefore is not so much a call to do something as it is a call to allow something. Meister Eckhart’s injunction comes to mind: “Get out of the way and let God (Love) be God (Love) in you!”
Mary’s response in Luke 1:38 sums up the disciple’s response: “You see before you the Lord’s servant. Let it happen according to your will.”
And there is the theme that runs like a golden thread through John’s writings. It is variously rendered in English by such words as abide, dwell, make a home, remain and so on. What is being spoken by these words is actually beyond words. Perhaps the best analogy is the relationship of deep human love – after the gold leaf wears off. How can we adequately name the abiding, the communion of life, the unity that two people share in committed love?
If I am willing, God will “come to (me) and make a home with (me)”. In essence this is what it means to be a Christian – to be the dwelling place of God. Indeed, it is what it means to be a human being fully alive. St Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century bishop) wrote: “Gloria Dei est vivens homo” (“The glory of God is living man.”) (Adversus Haereses, 4:20.) This saying is sometimes translated as, “The glory of God is the human person fully alive.” For Irenaeus, to be “full alive” is to be in Christ, as is indicated by the rest of the quotation: “Vita hominis est visio Dei” (“The life of man is the vision of God.”) This is a far cry from the individualism that so often defines the self in our culture.
Thomas Merton, complementing both John and Irenaeus, brings into focus the moral and missionary thrust of our being in the world: “We exist solely for this, to be the place He has chosen for His presence, His manifestation in the world, His epiphany.” (“A Letter on the Contemplative Life” in Thomas Merton: Spiritual Master – The Essential Writings, edited by Lawrence S Cunningham, Paulist Press, 1992, 425.)