Silvio José Báez, O.C.D.
Auxiliary Bishop of Managua
Saint Agatha Catholic Church
Archdiocese of Miami
17 May 2020
In the liturgy of this sixth Sunday of Easter, we’ve heard another text from the so-called “farewell discourses” of Jesus, through which he wishes to strengthen the faith of his disciples in view of his imminent departure, assuring them that he will not leave them alone, but that his presence, in the form of strength and inner light, will continually guide and protect them in the midst of the world.
Jesus teaches his disciples that from now on his relationship with them will be an experience of personal and intimate love.
“My God, I love you!”
After his resurrection, when he no longer will be physically visible, he’ll be seen and known only by those who love him. Only those who truly love him will be interested in knowing his will and committed to following in his footsteps. This is why he says to them: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15).
The love of the Lord’s commandments is well known in the Bible. The person who is praying in Psalm 119 says, “I find my delight in your commandments because I love them. Consider how I love your precepts; preserve my life according to your steadfast love.” (Ps 119:47, 159). The Israelite believer takes pleasure in obeying the Law of the Lord and shows his love by fulfilling His commandments with all his heart. Jesus asks his disciples not only to love God’s will, not only to love his message—but to love him, to love his person. It is he who must be heard, known, and loved above all things.
Bishop @silviojbaez “Jesus asks his disciples not only to love God’s will, not only to love his message–but to love him, to love his person.”Tweet
Only by loving Jesus can we love God “with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength” (Deut 6:5). The foundation of the Christian life is personal love for Jesus, from which the fulfillment of his commandments spontaneously flows — not from established rules or simple religious precepts, but from the various demands that love imposes in every circumstance of life. Those who love Jesus seek after his ways with humility and patiently strive to follow him on the path of love.
Bishop @silviojbaez “The foundation of the Christian life is personal love for Jesus, from which the fulfillment of his commandments spontaneously flows.”Tweet
Sending another Paraclete
To make this communion of love with him grow and endure, Jesus promises to ask the Father to send us the Holy Spirit: “And I will ask the Father, and he shall give you another Paraclete, that he may abide with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth” (Jn 14:16–17a, Douay-Rheims). Paraclete is not one of the Spirit’s names, but it is a Greek term (παράκλητος) that indicates one of his functions in the heart of the believer. A Paraclete is someone called to be close to another, to console, lead, and help him. That is why in some translations he is called “Comforter” or “Advocate”.
While Jesus lived with his disciples, it was he who fulfilled this task, accompanying them, teaching them and encouraging them; now, after his resurrection, Jesus intercedes before the Father to send another Paraclete, through whom he will become intimately present in the lives of his disciples, guiding and strengthening them interiorly, and they must continually invoke and welcome him with humility.
Those of us who believe in Jesus know the Spirit, we have experienced his intimate and comforting presence and that is why, as today’s Gospel says, we never feel like orphans (cf. Jn 14:18). We are never alone. In our innermost desolation, the Spirit waters our hearts like a freshwater stream that brings us back to life over and over again. When everything seems to fall apart, the Spirit makes us strong, enables us to glimpse new horizons, and encourages our hope. In life’s darkness the Spirit enlightens us with an intense and discreet light that opens up new pathways and invites us to journey free from guilt and fear. Jesus has not left us as orphans.
The Spirit of truth
Jesus calls him the “Spirit of truth” (Jn 14:17). The “Spirit of truth” is a discreet and silent presence who comes from above as both a force and light that allows us to live united to Jesus, continually enlightened by the truth of his word. In the midst of the world’s misleading voices that could divert us from the Gospel, stronger than our temptation to be guided by the actions of the majority, the “Spirit of truth” whispers Jesus’ words to our hearts, bearing witness to him, making us feel that he is alive and near, so that we may be his witnesses in the world (Jn 15:26-27).
Conversion and witness require moving from a superficial and routine knowledge of Jesus to the experience of living rooted in his “Spirit of truth”.
- When we oppose the truth, ignore the pain of others, or when we resist love, the Spirit of truth makes us understand that arrogance, mental rigidity, and selfishness take away our happiness and distance us from God (cf. Jn 15:9).
- When we venture into the ways of power, greed for money or the quest for popularity, the Spirit of truth straightens our path and leads us to the cross where Jesus, loving up to the very end, triumphed over the world (cf. Jn 15:10).
- When we’re blinded by ideologies that diminish human beings or when we’re dazzled by the apparent success of corrupt individuals, the Spirit of truth reminds us that worldliness and evil, despite their semblance of victory, have been defeated by Jesus and lead to death (cf. Jn 15:11).
In John’s gospel, the “Spirit of truth” is like an interior teacher who will guide us “into all the truth” (Jn 16:13) and “will teach us everything and remind us of all that Jesus has said to us” (Jn 14:26). The Spirit helps us to understand Jesus’ words in depth, beyond reason and feeling. The Spirit makes it possible for the Christian community to discover at every moment the relevance of Jesus’ message, to experience it with clarity, and to incarnate it in a concrete way according to the demands of our times. The Spirit is the true inspiring principle of the Christian life, because according to the promise of Jesus, “he abides with us and is in us” (cf. Jn 14:17). We invoke him in the silence of prayer, we listen to him within us, and he shines in our lives when we strive to follow in Jesus’ footsteps in a humble, confident, and faithful way.
Jesus says that the “Spirit of truth” is the one “whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees him nor knows him” (Jn 14:17). The “world” that can’t receive or know the Spirit isn’t humanity, which God so loved that he gave his beloved Son (cf. Jn 3:16). Rather, it’s the prevailing system characterized by selfishness, injustice and violence, organized deception, the idolization of wealth, and the plunder of creation. This is the “world”.
Those who belong to this dark and inhumane system obviously can’t perceive the Spirit, nor do they even wish to know him, because—as the Gospel says—they prefer darkness to light (cf. Jn 3:19): they’ve chosen death, not life.
Bishop @silviojbaez “The Spirit helps us to understand Jesus’ words in depth, beyond reason and feeling.”Tweet
To us, his disciples, on the other hand—who live in the world but don’t belong to the world (cf. Jn 17:14-15)—Jesus assures us that we’re not alone, that he hasn’t left us “orphans” (Jn 14:18), helpless and at the mercy of the dangers of worldliness and the hostility of evil. The interior presence of the Spirit assures us of this through a wonderful and surprising communication of love: “On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” (Jn 14:20). These are sublime words of intimacy, closeness and communion: in the Risen Christ, God is in us and we are in God.
Each one of us is a branch from the vine, a drop from the fountain, a flame from the fire, a breath from the same divine wind. Such an unfathomable and extraordinary mystery of communion is made visible in the simplicity of our daily life: “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” (Jn 14:23).
We become God’s dwelling place, awe-struck and full of gratitude, when we allow divine love to inundate us and we humbly strive to turn this love into a smile, solidarity, compassion, and forgiveness.