I was very pleased this week when Fr. Frank Daly, Pastor at Our Lady of Sorrows, invited me to preside at the videotaped Eucharist for the 6th Sunday of Easter (May 17), which you can see here. These weekly Masses have been a wonderful way of keeping us together!
So I need not write out a homily on John 14:
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them. (14.15-21)
But since I am a writer at heart, just a few words…
When we hear this Gospel passage, we are past the tipping point of the Easter season, and are now heading swiftly toward Pentecost (May 31), the public pouring forth of the Spirit upon God’s people.
Yet when Jesus speaks these words, it is not Pentecost. Rather, impending doom and loss loom over John 14, since Jesus knew that his words about going and coming were not idle metaphors: he would be dead within 18 hours. He knew also, we might add, that for the next 2000+ years of the community’s life, he would be present sometimes, absent sometimes, coming and going in mysterious ways.
But this is why his promise of the Spirit matters all the more, for this is the sure, enduring presence of God around us and within us, God’s real presence - Real Presence - wherever we happen to be. Jesus' promise bears repeating, in slight paraphrase:
I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees nor knows the Spirit. You know the Spirit, because the Spirit abides with you, and the Spirit will be in you.
We may not be in church, nor receiving communion, but the Spirit is where we are: we are in God, and God is in us. There is nothing more real than this.
It makes sense then that at the beginning and end of the Gospel Jesus reminds the apostles, and therefore us, to keep his commandments. There are many, I am sure, but the one that comes to mind is surely the one he gave a moment before, at the end of the previous chapter:
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (13.34-35)
Where we are, right in every distanced place in which we live, there we enact our faith, right here in the love we show for one another and for all God’s people in need. It is as easy — and dauntingly hard — as that, love lived and shared in ordinary times and places.
A weather note: We are already past the mid-point of May. Since I had been at Our Lady of Sorrows in Sharon last on March 8, visiting to film the Mass was also a pleasure in terms of the change in seasons. It was great to see how winter has truly gone away and spring has truly come to the town and the parish. If in April the fickleness of the winter-spring-winter weather seemed fitting to Lent and to the travails of pandemic, the surely, quietly warming days of May, the green of new grass and leaves, and the blossoming of so many flowers are also a sign: new life, new hope for us all.