Sixth Sunday of Easter 2023
A priest is walking through the jungle when he comes upon an
obviously hungry lion. The lion is preparing his attack, the
priest crosses himself, folds his hands in prayer, and says,
“Lord, if you can hear me, please infuse the Holy Spirit in the
heart of this beast.” The lion comes to a screeching halt as a
bright light begins to glow around him. He looks to the sky, folds
his paws in prayer, and says, “Thank you, Lord, for this meal.”
We continue reading John’s gospel, chapter 14: the Last Supper.
Further consolation of distraught disciples, ambitious consolation.
To console us, Jesus never simply gives a hug or an aspirin
or an inspirational catch phrase.
He gives someOne: the Advocate, the Spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit,
thanks to Whom light glows around us
and we are able give great thanks for good meals.
And Jesus promises that this Holy Spirit will be with them, with us,
Forever means the truest giving, true gift.
How does this sound to you?
Consoling? Abstract? Too intangible for the very tangible distress of
Perhaps. We dare trust, nonetheless, that Jesus is speaking to us.
And that, as He tells us, we have a real part to play in this gift
which evacuates abstraction.
Jesus respects us too much to leave us passive in the spiritual life.
This promised gift of the Holy Spirit,
although unmerited and completely gratuitous,
is especially given as we freely move our hearts.
Hence, Jesus’ words: “If you love me, you will keep my
In keeping Jesus’ commandments, we freely move our hearts in love.
Not abstract…but seemingly impossible!
What are these commandments, by the way?
Where does the rubber hit the road for us?
Both before and after this passage in 13:34-35 in 15:12,
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.
Just as I have loved you, you also should love one
One can suggest that Jesus’ commandments
are contained in this new commandment.
And, again, although God is the One who makes all of this possible,
what is the aforementioned real part that we play?
“Keeping Jesus’ commandments”, on our side of the equation,
requires intention and willingness to and efforts at loving one another.
Which open us to the movement of the Holy Spirit.
Not abstract and not impossible.
We can all intend and be willing and try.
We are invited to choose, beyond emotion,
to love with the help, with the love of the Holy Spirit.
Saint Catherine of Siena, the 14 th -century Italian mystic, exhorts us:
Enrich your soul in the great goodness of God:
the Father is your table,
the Son is your food,
and the Holy Spirit waits on you and then makes His
dwelling in you.
Each day, with the love of the Holy Spirit, will have meaning
—regardless of our circumstances, I promise!
This love of neighbor (my loved ones who are getting on my last
nerve, the odd person on the sidewalk, in the check-out line or the
lane next to me, the reclusive neighbor down the street, my long-lost
aunt, my estranged child, my unpleasant co-worker, clergy who
disappoint me, whomever) is possible.
We choose to love, knowing, as says the Carmelite nun (d. 1897),
St. Therese of Lisieux, that Our Lord does not look so much
at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty,
but at the love with which we do them.
Today is a new day. Today is God’s day.
As Saint Augustine (d. 430) suggests, let us entrust the past to
the present to God’s love, and the future to God’s providence.
I close with words from Mother Teresa (d. 1997), Albanian,
whose birth name, by the way was Anjezë, Agnes
—as a nun, she took the name Teresa in honor of St. Therese of
Yesterday is gone.
Tomorrow has not yet come.
We have only today.
Let us begin.
Let us indeed begin.
A Larger Cup
Fifth Sunday of Easter 2023
The scene: the Last Supper.
After foretelling Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial
(which put a real damper on dinner!), Christ consoles the apostles.
As Matthew Henry, the late-17th, early-18th-century Presbyterian minister,
The Lord Jesus is acquainted with all our secret undiscovered sorrows, with the wound that bleeds inwardly; he knows not only how we are afflicted, but how we stand affected under our afflictions, and how near they lie to our hearts; He takes cognizance of all the trouble with which we are at any time in danger of being overwhelmed; He knows our souls in adversity.
And what is the remedy to such sorrow and affliction, trouble and adversity?
Faith—which, by the way, is not magical thinking.
To be more precise, the remedy is Christ
to whom we are bound by and in faith.
Faith, however, is a gift that is only freely exercised.
There is no pressure in faith because there is no pressure in true love.
Hence, Jesus’ appeal to believing.
“Please make use of this gift”, Jesus asks,
for immeasurable closeness follows.
Upon appealing to faith,
Jesus reveals Himself, with illuminating vulnerability:
Believe in God, believe also in me.
In other words, believe in me as you believe in God. Believe in me, God.
And He reveals: because He is the God-man, God-become-human, we have
a unique dwelling in the Father’s house, our home in the mystery of God.
I will…take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.
I will, I promise: today, tomorrow, when you die, at my Second Coming.
Jesus reassuringly and forcefully proclaims,
I am the way, and the truth, and the life.
Which is not a declaration of exclusivity but of divinity.
The identity, the oneness (yet distinction) between Son and Father,
is, of course, beyond immediate grasp—for Philip, and for us!
Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.
Jesus, the Son, God incarnate, although distinct,
in His perfect oneness with the Father,
I am in the Father and the Father is in me
perfectly reveals the Father.
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
Now, what is meant by many dwelling places?
Although Three Persons, one God,
and so really just one dwelling “place”, no?
Well, yes and no.
God is our home: one dwelling--beyond place, of course.
But we each have a personal relationship, distinct one from the other.
And, although we shall all be perfectly happy in God,
and thus no jealous comparison, like that which bedevils us here on earth,
there are degrees of intensity in the participation in the life of the one God.
Which is not a question of predestination favouritism, but of free choice.
St. Thomas Aquinas (I know, again!), in his commentary on this passage, says,
It is like a spring of water, available to all to take as much as they wish. Then, one who has a larger cup will receive more, and one who has a smaller cup will receive less. Therefore, there is one fountain, considering it in itself, but every one does not receive the same portion.
He goes on to say,
One who has a more burning love for God
will find more delight in the enjoyment of God.
Our journey here on earth is about increasing the size of the cup,
about expanding our hearts, so that we delight as much as possible,
in the enjoyment of God for all eternity.
And, although ultimately a gift, this is our responsibility, our free choice.
How do we increase the size of the cup?
A simple inner act, repeated, whereby God takes hold of our hearts:
And, from desiring, not feeling, seeking to love in action, seizing
the opportunities, big and small, that God brings across our path each day.
It is daunting and it is hopeful.
These inner acts of love, which we seek to translate into action,
are the works that are greater than those of Christ.
The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do
and, in fact, will do greater works than these.
No one, of course, can do works greater than those of Christ.
He seems to refer to Him working through us, spreading His love,
in new expressions.
Jesus has gone to the Father in His humanity.
His Body, the Church, which we are, is a wondrous sacrament
for God to so love the world.
Hence the words of the 16th-century Spanish mystic, Saint Teresa of Avila,
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which He looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which He blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are His body.
Time to desire. Time to believe. Time to act.