From last Sunday, the Fifth Sunday of Easter and thereafter the thrust of the readings at Mass has moved from the celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection to preparation for the culmination of the Paschal Season, the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The fact that the Gospel readings on these Sundays are all taken from Christ’s discourse at the end of the Last Supper underscores their profoundly Eucharistic significance. The readings and prayers provide an opportunity for us all to ponder the role of the Holy Spirit in the on-going life of the Church. The paragraphs of the Catechism that treat of “God’s Spirit and Word in the Time of the Promises” (CCC 702-716) offer a summary of the readings from the Easter Vigil, seen now in terms of the work of the Holy Spirit, and those dealing with “The Holy Spirit and the Church in the Liturgy” (CCC 1091-1109) assist in leading us to a deeper appreciation of how the Holy Spirit makes present the Paschal Mystery of Christ in the liturgy.
In the words of the Gospel for this Sunday we are introduced to the intimate atmosphere in which Jesus opened his heart to the Apostles during the Last Supper.
He begins with some clear and demanding words: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” God’s commands are not arbitrary expressions of his authority. Rather they are an expression of the Love of a good Father teaching his children the true path to happiness. This doesn’t mean that following them will not require effort. Saint John Paul II who was born one hundred years ago this coming Monday said: “In the discussions about new and complex moral problems, it can seem that Christian morality is in itself too demanding, difficult to understand and almost impossible to practise. This is untrue, since Christian morality consists, in the simplicity of the Gospel, in following Jesus Christ, in abandoning oneself to him, in letting oneself be transformed by his grace and renewed by his mercy, gifts which come to us in the living communion of his Church …. By the light of the Holy Spirit, the living essence of Christian morality can be understood by everyone, even the least learned, but particularly those who are able to preserve an ‘undivided heart’ (Ps 86:11). On the other hand, this evangelical simplicity does not exempt one from facing reality in its complexity; rather it can lead to a more genuine understanding of reality, inasmuch as following Christ will gradually bring out the distinctive character of authentic Christian morality, while providing the vital energy needed to carry it out … The one who loves Christ keeps his commandments.”
Jesus is well aware of the effort required to keep his commandments, but He assures us that we can rely on an invaluable help: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate, to be with you for ever” (v. 16). The word parakletós in the Greek text (which is translated here as advocate ) means a person who is called upon for help: a consoler, defender; someone invited to journey alongside us, to accompany us, point out the obstacles, defend us, while speaking to us softly, comforting us, offering suggestions, encouraging us… The “Paraclete” is a faithful and inseparable companion.
Jesus Himself will always be at our side as our “Paraclete,” as he promises his disciples: “I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you” (v. 18). But He also promises that his Father will send “another Paraclete” who will be with them forever: the Spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit (v. 16).
Benedict XVI the Pope Emeritus in an Easter homily in 2008 said: “The first Paraclete is in fact the Incarnate Son who came to defend man from the accuser by antonomasia, who is Satan. At the moment when Christ, his mission fulfilled, returns to the Father, he sends the Spirit as Defender and Consoler to remain with believers for ever, dwelling within them. Thus, through the mediation of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, an intimate relationship of reciprocity is established between God the Father and the disciples … However, all this depends on one condition which Christ imposes clearly at the beginning: ‘If you love me’ (Jn 14: 15), and which he repeats at the end: ‘He who obeys the commandments he has from me is the man who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father. I too will love him and reveal myself to him’ (Jn 14: 21).”
Pope Francis noted in an address in 2017 that “by meditating on these words of Jesus, we perceive with the sense of faith that we are the People of God in communion with the Father and with Jesus through the Holy Spirit … The Lord today calls us to respond generously to the Gospel’s call to love, placing God at the center of our lives and dedicating ourselves to the service of our brothers and sisters, especially those most in need of support and consolation.”
May I remind you that during this time please remember I am only at the end of the phone and may I thank those who have phoned to ask after my well-being. Please continue to keep safe by observing the advice given by the Government.
Christopher J P Draycott