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Jesus' promises depend on love
By Father Paul Turner
Catholic Key Scripture Columni

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The Good News for the Sixth Sunday oF Easter, May 5, 2002
Acts 8:5-8, 14-17
1 Peter 3:15-18
John 14:15-21

We receive the promises of many politicians, lovers, employers and leaders of foreign nations with much skepticism. Too many words have been spoken. Too many promises have been broken. When a promise is made, we almost expect it to fail. We have learned the cynicism of disbelief.

When Jesus starts making promises to his disciples, we are tempted to fall into the same disbelief. These promises, however, coming at the Last Supper, constitute Jesus' final words of hope to a bewildered and beleaguered band.

Next Sunday's Gospel (John 14:15-21) continues this weekend's text from Jesus' farewell discourse. Although this discourse consumes several chapters, we hear only brief excerpts from it on two Sundays of the Easter season each year. A third passage can be heard on the Seventh Sunday of Easter in those parts of the world where Ascension is celebrated on a Thursday. We now celebrate Ascension on a Sunday.

Your parish has the choice of replacing the Gospel for the Sixth Sunday of Easter with the one assigned for the Seventh (John 17:1-11a). That passage opens Jesus' prayer to the Father at the end of his discourse to the disciples. If your community prefers to hear John 17, the church permits a substitution next Sunday in areas where Ascension Sunday replaces the Seventh Sunday of Easter.

In the passage for the Sixth Sunday of Easter, Jesus lays down a simple principle: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." Simple to say, but not so simple to do. Still, Jesus promises much for those who love him.

Jesus will ask the Father to send another Advocate to be with the disciples always. In some translations you see the word Paraclete instead of Advocate. During his life, Jesus has acted as Advocate for his disciples. Now that he is leaving, he asks the Father to send another Advocate to continue his work for them. He calls this other Advocate the Spirit of truth. This Spirit is opposed to the spirit of the world, a spirit of falsehood and deceit. Jesus promises to send a Spirit of right conscience who will guide the disciples and link them to the Father.

Jesus promises more. In addition to another Advocate, he promises that he will return to the disciples after he leaves them. His coming will bring them understanding of the union among the Father, Jesus and the disciple.

The reading closes with one more promise. The Father will love those who love Jesus. Jesus will also love them and reveal himself to them.

This great chain of promises sounds too good to be true. But it is true. It comes from the original Advocate who sends the Spirit of truth. Companionship with God comes to those who love.

In mystagogy sessions next week several themes may be explored with the newly baptized.

  • The gift of the Spirit. In the sacrament of confirmation the newly baptized celebrated the gift of the Spirit in a profound way. They were strengthened to become more like Christ and effective witnesses to his suffering, death and resurrection. They were also strengthened to be more active members of the church and to build up the Body of Christ in faith and love. As Jesus promised "another Advocate" in the Gospel, that promise is realized in this sacrament of the church.

  • Understanding. Among the gifts of the Spirit are wisdom and understanding, right judgment and knowledge. In one of the readings from the Easter Vigil (Baruch 3:9-15, 32-4:4), the prophet urges Israel to hear the commandments of life, to listen and have prudence. Those who prepared for baptism came to a deeper understanding of Christ, and they will live by his words of everlasting life. In the gospel for next Sunday, Jesus promises the disciples that on the day of his return they will realize "that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you." Their understanding of this mystery will grow.

  • Love. All Jesus promises depends upon love. Those who love him will keep his commandments. At the Easter Vigil, the newly baptized heard the message of love proclaimed in the Gospel of the resurrection, and experienced the measure of God's love in their sharing of the Eucharist. In the dismissal, they were sent out to bring God's love to the world.

    The very work of mystagogy unveils the truth of Jesus' promises. As we reflect on the sacraments we experienced, we enter more deeply the mystery of God.

    Father Paul Turner is the pastor of St. Munchin Parish, Cameron.

    END


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