“The spiritual building up of the body of Christ is brought about by love…” – St. Fulgentius of Ruspe
John 14:13-21: ‘Whatever you ask for in my name I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask for anything in my name, I will do it. If you love me you will keep my commandments. I shall ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever, that Spirit of truth whom the world can never receive since it neither sees nor knows him; but you know him because he is with you, he is in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come back to you. In a short time, the world will no longer see me; but you will see me because I live and you will live. On that day you will understand that I am in my Father and you in me and I in you. Anybody who receives my commandments and keeps them will be one who loves me; and, anybody who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I shall love him and show myself to him.’
Christ the Lord Jesus is gathered with his disciples on the evening before his Passion. The intense intimacy of the moment is marked by his apostles’ rapt attention. He begins to speak to them of what is about to happen. He knows that he is going to suffer, die, rise, and ascend into heaven. His earthly mission is coming to a close, and he is preparing them for the next stage, the epoch of the Church, which he will guide through the work of the Holy Spirit, the “Advocate.”
To us, this is normal. We know the full story, so we know what Christ is referring to. But put yourself in the position of the apostles. How odd it must have been for them to hear these words – even mystifying! Jesus is predicting the future with an uncanny specificity and confidence. His mastery over other men, over nature, over sickness and demons, all this was familiar to the Twelve. But mastery over future events? Seemingly contradictory references to being unseen and then seen again? Allusions to the Father sending an “Advocate” to be with them always? Surely they must have sounded almost like the words of a madman… or of the Son of God. If with our imagination we try to enter into this scene, placing ourselves at the apostles’ side and listening to these words as if for the first time, perhaps we will hear once again the untamed grandeur, tender love, and mysterious truth that radiated from Christ the Lord on the first Holy Thursday.
Christ the Teacher During the Last Supper discourse, Christ’s constant refrain is: if you love me, you will keep my commandment. That commandment is to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34), the commandment of charity. In a sense, the Last Supper is Jesus’ last earthly encounter with his beloved companions (the later Resurrection appearances already have an otherworldly feel). These are his parting words, then, the last flow of love from his Sacred Heart before it is broken and pierced. They are special words. We need to hear them; we need to let them sink in.
He knows that these twelve men, so normal and yet so privileged, love him. He earnestly desires to teach them how to live out that love. It is not in pretty words, it is not merely in rituals and prayers, it is not in lengthy theological treatises – it is in obedience to the wishes of his heart; it is in imitating his love for them. Love made into action, into serving our brothers and sisters, giving our lives for them – just like Christ’s love from Calvary’s cross – is the only mark of a follower of Christ. Jesus never tires of repeating this. He wants to convince us that everything else is in a distant second place. If, having discovered his love for us, we courageously and trustingly leave behind our self-absorption and launch out on the enlivening and everlasting adventure of loving in the same way, we will finally discover and experience what we were created for and what we long for. In the end, we will be judged on our love – our love for God lived out in love for our neighbor.
Christ the Friend “I will not leave you orphans.” How painful for the Twelve to hear their Lord, their Leader, speaking about his imminent departure! They had left all to follow him, and he was going to leave them. But not really… He would send them the “Advocate to be with them always” – the “Paraclete,” the Holy Spirit. In the Holy Spirit, Jesus knows that he will be present to his disciples in a more intimate way than ever before. The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Blessed Trinity, is the love between the Father and Son lived so intensely that it is a person itself. When we are baptized, that same Spirit takes up residence within our souls, and his field of action is increased when we are confirmed. This gift surpasses all other gifts. In the Holy Spirit the prophecy of “Emmanuel” (God-with-us) takes on unimaginable proportions: not merely God among us, as in the Incarnation, but God within us, a guest in our souls, a guide for our life’s journey, a personal trainer for our spiritual fitness. What greater gift could Christ have left us? What other friend could match such a gift?
Jesus: I was longing to complete my mission go back to the Father, because I was longing to come and live in your heart forever, in an intimacy that only the Spirit can give. And I was longing to go and sit at the Father’s right hand so that I could be there interceding for you all the time, so that you could finally ask the Father for all that you need and desire in my name. Now that I have repaired the breach through my sacrifice on the cross, the floodgates of grace are open, and all that I have and all that the Father has is all yours.
Christ in My Life You speak with such assurance, Lord. You are Master of all time and space. You are Master of my life. What confidence this should give me! Increase my faith, Lord. Give me the faith and trust of a child who is incapable of doubting, of being anxious, of wondering what will become of him. You love me more than any human mother or father ever could. And you are all-powerful. Jesus, I trust in you…
Mary, the Church calls you the Mother of Fairest Love. But you didn’t do big and impressive things. You did all things with the purest and most humble self-forgetfulness and dedication to God the world had ever seen. You had two mottos: “Let it be done to me…” and “My soul magnifies the Lord.” Why do I keep seeking satisfaction in other mottos? Mother, pray for me, teach me to love…
Holy Spirit, pour out your gifts into my soul. My mind is weak and benighted; renew and restore its vigor and clarity. My will is shrunken and misdirected; breathe into it your force and goodness. My heart – I don’t even want to talk about it. You know that way down at its very core is a tiny spark of love. Blow on it, feed it, build it into a blazing fire of zeal for God’s glory and the salvation of souls…
PS: This is just one of 303 units of Fr. John’s fantastic book The Better Part. To learn more about The Better Part or to purchase in print, Kindle or iPhone editions, click here. Also, please help us get these resources to people who do not have the funds or ability to acquire them by clicking here.
Art for this post on John 14:13-21: Cover of The Better Part used with permission. Pentakosta (Pentecost), Yerrio darius raolika, 16 September 2010, PD- Worldwide, Wikimedia Commons.