How to Love Someone Who Leaves: Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit (Gospel Reflection)
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One of the best ways to enrich your experience at Sunday Mass is to pray the Mass Readings personally and to meditate on a Gospel reflection.
A great way of doing this is using the technique of Lectio Divina, a powerful method which we explain here. The following is the Sunday Gospel reading with a reflection that is especially aimed at youth. We hope that it serves you in your personal prayer and that it serves as a resource that you can share with your apostolate.
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Gospel of the Sixth Sunday of Easter (John 14: 15-21)
“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 always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”
The Gospel of the Lord
“The reason we have two ears and just one mouth is that we ought to listen more and talk less.” ~ Zeno of Citium
What does it mean to love a person that is gone, that is no longer by our side?
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Moments of mourning mark our lives not only when we lose a loved one – though that is their principle reason – but also in so many other instances when we must say goodbye: when a relationship comes to an end, at the end of a beautiful experience, when one loses their job.
The first Christian community, at a loss for the absence of their Teacher, asked themselves what it meant to love Jesus now that he was gone, now that He no longer walked with them.
What does it mean to love a God that is hard to find? This was not only the question the first community asked; it is also the question – one that often goes unmentioned – of so many Christians Who courageously seek to live a faith with a weak Christian identity.
But more than anything it is the accusation made, and in part understandably, of so many non-believers that do no see this Jesus that the Christians claim to love and to follow. Sometimes in fact, as Christians, we not only give the impression but sometimes even the proof that the only thing we are following is ourselves, our ideas, our interests.
At the end of the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius of Loyola, who knew well that the faith can become nothing more than empty words and feelings that change nothing, closes by opening himself to the field of action: “love is shown more in deeds than in words.”
In the life of faith, sometimes we are like those men who always say we will get married yet never do. One’s words, on their own, do not create reality. We risk being infatuated adolescents out entire lives, without ever committing.
The first action of real love is to listen. The people of Israel know well how important this verb is. To love is to obey: to listen to the other. As opposed to seeing, listening obligates us to de-center ourselves, to concentrate on the speaker and to forget ourselves for a moment. Listening is an invitation to action. The book of Deuteronomy tells us that to love is to observe the Lord’s commandments (Dt 10:12).
Jesus synthesized – not abolished – the commandments of the Old Law, and in doing so He revealed their foundation: love one another as I have loved you.
That “as” is fundamental: the measure of how to love each is not in us, it is not our parameters, our convictions. The measure is beyond us. We must look at how Christ has loved us: that is the measure without measure.
Thus we can be faithful to someone by continuing to listen to the words they have placed in our hearts. This is the role of the Paraclete, to help us stay faithful to the words we have heard.
Life constantly is putting us on trial: it is as if we are constantly scrutinized by a tribunal and constantly accused. The prosecutor derides our fidelity, quips about our wasted love, and confuses our memories.
This is why we need a defender that can console and protect us.
The word paraclete means precisely this: in Greek para- indicates that something is either against (for example in the word paradox, meaning against the opinion), or even next to (for example in the word paramedic, as he who helps the doctor). The Paraclete the one that is next to us, that supports us and fights against our accusor.
Not everyone is ready to hear these words.
Some, according to the Gospel of John, belong to the world, choosing to shut their ears so that they may only hear themselves, their own resentment, their own dissatisfaction, their own frustrations. He that listens to himself cannot hear the Paraclete. To listen one must be de-centered: he that is centered on his own ego is unable to hear the words of another.
Only a person in community, or rather in communion, – that is in relationship with God – can hear the voice of the Paraclete because he has the courage necessary to listen to the truth – that is a truth received from another person as a gift and not a personal construction or fruit of one’s own fantasies. The Paraclete is the spirit of truth, not our egos!
Thus Jesus does not leave us orphaned; he does not leave us without a Teacher. In fact, in the rabbinic instruction, the teacher is considered a father.
In this text from the Gospel of John, being orphaned means being left without someone to show us which way to go. We are not orphans because the Paraclete shows us where to go, teaches us, reminds us of what Jesus has said. Jesus does not die; he lives in his Word. There is the paradox: Jesus says I live precisely in the moment that he is walking to his death.
Thus, in times of mourning, it is the Word that prevents our bonds from breaking: the word that we have heard, but also the word acted upon.
Listening and acting is the life of the Christian, but above all to act while listening. When acting is separated from listening we become easy prey for the accuser: our acting becomes an expression of our egos alone, egos separated from God and from the community.
Questions for Personal Reflection:
- How much room is there in your life to listen to the Word of God?
- Do you do what’s right on your own or listening to what God asks of you?