Easter Readings – John – Session 12

INTRO We have already begun to see how Jesus speaks to His disciples about the kind of community they are to form – a community that expressed (is a sacrament of) the Father’s Love for the Son and the Son’s love for and obedience to the Father. But how can they form such a community of Divine Love – by the gift of the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, who is the eternal bond of love between Father and Son. Because this Divine Love will be within them and among them, the Johannine Community (and all Christian communities) experience that Jesus has returned to them, is present among them – they are not left orphans, for they are ‘first-born’ sons and daughters of God.

[1] The Promise of the Spirit (John 14: 12-31) Jesus makes promises to his followers – that His disciples will perform the same works as He does – in fact even greater works! What are those ‘works’ – revealing the love of the Father, bringing healing and hope into the world, witnessing to the Truth that liberates, being the Shepherd who dies in order to give life, opening eyes to see authentic reality, feeding human hunger (practical food and the the ‘Bread of Life’), being ‘Servant’ washing the feet of the broken and wounded, enabling us to discover (through ‘re-birth’) that we are indeed all Children of God. The ‘Signs’ Jesus gives will be the ‘Signs’ that the community of His disciples also gives to the world. Our Mission is his! And how can this be? Because of the promise to send ‘another Paraclete’ (John 14: 16). ‘Parakletos’ is a word to describe the Holy Spirit that is only found in the Johannine writings (and the communities that originate these writings). It means ‘one who stands with’ – an Advocate – one who speaks up for, defends, one who speaks the Truth. The word ‘Parakletos’ has its origin in law courts. Remember that the Johannine communities experienced vicious persecution, including many martyrs. So the Spirit enabled these early Johannine ‘witnesses’ or ‘martyrs’ to speak the Truth, to witness without fear, to experience God giving them courage to remain faithful in the time of trial. Jesus speaks of the Spirit in the same terms in the Synoptic Gospels, although the word ‘Parakletos’ is not used in the other Gospels – though the functions of ‘another Advocate’  are described. So the Holy Spirit is the presence of Jesus among them and within them. The Holy Spirit is the ‘power’ of Jesus’ presence – and that power is Love, Truth giving birth to Faith in us. As we saw in the Acts of the Apostles, the Spirit is always love’s power, healing and giving courage to witness before the ‘law court’ of the world. The Spirit is that ’perfect love that casts out all fear’ (1John 4: 17-18). This is why red vestments are worn in Masses of the Holy Spirit – the same colour as for Masses of the Martyrs. And because the Spirit makes Jesus present among us and within us – Jesus who is the Word made Flesh, the Divine Love come to perfection in the human flesh of Jesus – this is how the disciples can do the same works as Jesus, even greater works! Because it is Jesus among us and within us that is doing these ‘greater works’. The Holy Spirit enables us to ‘keep my word’, and hence to remain in His and the Father’s love – to such a degree that the Father and the Son come and make their home in you and me! (John 14: 23). Remember that the ‘Word’ is not just beliefs but the Divine creative action of God – Jesus is the Father’s Word – the Holy Spirit empowers us not just to speak thatWord, act in that Word but ourselves to give flesh to that Divine creativity and liberating action in our contemporary world of today.  This is why ‘whatever you ask in my name I will do!’ This does not mean simply adding ‘through Jesus Christ our Lord’ at the end of our prayers – it means yielding to the Spirit of Jesus within us, crying out within the will of the Father which is also the Will of Jesus the Son and the power of the creative, liberating and healing power of the Spirit (Romans 8: 14-27, esp 26-27). It is one of the tragedies of the Church that for centuries we failed to develop a Theology of the Spirit and then integrate that Theology into the practice and governance of the Church. What if we really allowed the Holy Spirit to guide and lead the Church? What if we spent much more energy discerning what ‘the Spirit is saying the Churches’ (Revelations 2: 7 & 11 & 17 &29 & 3: 6 & 13 & 22). Could we ever tolerate the Eucharistic famine that most of our Eucharistic Church has endured for centuries? Could we ever allow the laws of the Church to limit compassion? Would all our parishes be beacons of shared love, forces for liberation, authentic ‘communion for mission’, Pope Francis’s ‘field hospitals’ of welcome and healing? Why do we not trust what the Spirit is speaking through the whole People of God and listen to the Prophets! Would the Church become more than a democracy rather than less than a democracy if we really listened to the Spirit speaking through all the people of God!

[2] Who is The True Vine (John 15: 1-17). In one of the famous ‘I am’ sayings of Jesus, He uses the image of the Vine. For long the Prophets had described Israel as the Vineyard God has planted – it is image of God’s great care for His People, as a vineyard is labour intensive, tilling the soil, removing the weeds, carefully pruning the branches and ‘trailing’ or supporting the tendrils so that the Vine produces and supports more fruit. In John this is the main image for the Church, while Paul uses the image of the Body (emphasising the many ministries and charisms among the people building unity in mission – 1Corinthians ch 12 and Ephesians 4: 1-16). John emphasises our unity in Christ (He is the vine, we are the branches – but a Vine is the branches!), a communion of love for the Love the Spirit gives is the ‘sap’ the life-blood of the Vine which is the Church. Without that Jesus-Love in and among us there can be no fruit. And what is the fruit – the action of Divine Love among us – the Sign we give of the effect of Jesus-Love in us. And fruit, the grapes, is food to given away! Food to nourish, heal, give joy and life to the world. The very purpose of the Vine is to give away its fruitfulness – without the fruit it has no purpose. Without the Mission of Love the Church has no purpose. The warning of the Prophets (echoed by Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels) is that the Vineyard owner (God) will hold  us accountable for the fruit or otherwise that we produce. Here is the Church’s call to unity (see John ch 17), not just a structural unity but a communion of Love, a remaining in the heart of Christ, broken open for us. So we have Jesus only command – to love one another as he has loved us – to the laying down of our lives (John 15: 12-14). And remember ‘command’ is ‘dabar’ – event, creative and healing action. This Jesus-Love among us is the fulfilment of the Word (‘dabar’ command). The Promised Holy Spirit is the bond of this love for one another, binding us into loving community for mission to the world. 

AFTERWORD We have the Spirit among us and within us – do we yield to that Spirit? are we committed to profound community with each other? Do we feed the world with this Jesus-Love? Do we listen to what the Spirit is saying to the Church in our time for our contemporary world and refuse to live in the past but commit to shape the future!

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