Easter VI : Acts 15:1-2, 22-29; Rv 21:10-14, 22-23; Jn 14: 23-29
St. Francis of Assisi was an ardent advocate of the doctrine of the indwelling of God in man. It enabled him to love everyone equally whatever his status in life. One day he met a fellow who had no love for God. As they walked along they met a man who was blind and paralyzed. St. Francis asked the sightless cripple: “Tell me if I were to restore your eyesight and the use of your limbs, would you love me?” “Ah,” replied the beggar, “I would not only love you but I would be your slave for the rest of my life.” “See,” said Francis to the man who maintained that he could not love God, “this man would love me if I gave him his sight and his health. Why don’t you love God Who created you with eyesight and strong limbs?” That is what Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel. If we love him because of the countless blessings he has given us by “keeping his words” he will start dwelling within us in the company of his Father and the Holy Spirit, making us the temples of the Triune God.
The first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, tells us how the Holy Spirit, dwelling in the Church, helped the apostles to solve a major doctrinal problem, which shook the very foundation of the early Church. The first major controversy in the infant Church was about "what one needs to do to be saved." For the first 15 to 20 years of the Christian era, all Jesus’ followers were Jewish. During that period, any Gentiles who wanted to become Jesus’ disciples were expected first to become Jews. They had to attend Sabbath synagogue services and keep the 613 Torah laws. This situation began to change when a few “liberal” Christian communities like the newly founded Church of the Gentiles in Antioch, began to admit Gentiles into their number without demanding that they first be converted to Judaism. Some of the Judeo-Christians from Judea and Jerusalem argued that the new Gentile converts must observe the Mosaic Law of circumcision, dietary regulations, purification rituals, etc. The issue couldn't be settled on a local level, although Paul and Barnabas tried that at first. Hence, they had to go to Jerusalem to consult the apostles. The apostles convened the first synod at Jerusalem and, with the clear leading of the Holy Spirit, decided that the Gentiles need not become Jews first, to be saved as Christians. The decision was momentous for two reasons. First, it marked a significant break of Christianity with Judaism. Second, it put the burden of salvation on God rather than on man. In other words, it is God’s love that saves us -- not prayers, sacrifices or keeping of the Law, which are only expressions of our gratitude to God. Thus the Holy Spirit was able to solve the cause of dissention by inspiring the leaders of the Church.
Jesus is quite forthright in today's Gospel as he speaks to the disciples at the Last Supper. He tells them he is to die, he has to leave them. He does not deny the hard facts of the case. But even as he describes their condition without him, he is assuring them it is only temporary. "I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you." Another, Advocate, the Holy Spirit will come to you and he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.
The role of the Holy Spirit is twofold: a) to "teach" the disciples and b) to “remind" them of what Jesus has already taught them” (v. 26). Jesus affirms that even though He will no longer be visible with them, he will continue to be present among them through the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of truth will continue teaching them and helping them to understand and to build on what Jesus has already taught them. The Advocate will bring no new revelation because God has already revealed Himself in Jesus. But the Advocate will deepen their understanding of the revelation given by Jesus.
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. Then he gives us His peace to strengthen us 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.
Jesus says that the peace He offers is different from the one that the world gives. When the Christian community remains united like Jesus is united with his father the gift of peace will pervade in our communities too. The peace of Jesus comes to us when we obediently submit ourselves to God’s Divine Will through the authority of the Church. Then we are blessed with Divine peace; we are no longer troubled or afraid.
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. The Holy Spirit teaches us through the Scriptures and preaching during the Holy Mass as well as in our prayer and our private reading of Scripture.
In these last days of Easter let us open up to the Holy Spirit; whom we received when we were baptized and confirmed, so that he may share with us the peace of Christ which Jesus left for us before he went up to heaven.