Today we continue to read the Final Discourse from the Gospel of John. It is a rather packed Gospel, but we’ll simplify it from the perspective of the coming feasts that will complete the Paschal Mystery. Next Sunday, we celebrate the Ascension and the Sunday after it, Pentecost.
In the Ascension, we are sent out to continue Christ’s mission, to spread and to build on his Good News of salvation. In the Pentecost, we are given the “tools” through the Holy Spirit. It also defines the present age we live in, the age of the Spirit of the Risen Lord.
The Gospel opens with Christ’s discourse on love and obedience. Christ emphasizes that the best proof of love is obedience. It is an obedience that does not limit, but one that gives us the freedom to choose and to commit.
The Filipino word for obedience, “sumunod,” gives us a clearer visualization. Sumunod means two things: “to obey” and “to follow,” or go/come after another person.
In John 21, after Christ poses to Peter the triple question of love, and Peter professes his imperfect yet faithful love, Christ commissions him to lead and to care for the flock. Christ says, “Follow me.”
Ignatius of Loyola gives us the same flow of grace—“to see Christ more clearly, to love him more dearly and to follow him more nearly.” Ignatius adds that love is best expressed in deeds, and in our relationship with Christ, the expression of this love is “to follow (him) more nearly.”
It is this love and obedience, loving and following Christ, that becomes the foundation of the coming feasts.
In the sending of the Spirit, we are given an Advocate who will bless us with two things. The first is that the Spirit will make us remember. It will remind us of the original and eternal inspiration of the path we have chosen to take and committed to follow, that of the Risen Lord.
It is in remembering that we keep connected in love and obedience to the person of the Risen Lord. Without this connectedness, our being Christian, our Christian love and obedience, won’t be possible.
It is a great gift of the Spirit. It is the great gift of the Mass, which is the memorial of the Lord’s love for us and the Father, being the Beloved Son with his obedience unto death on the Cross.
Without remembering, we cannot be followers of Christ.
The Spirit’s other blessing is that it “will teach us everything.” He will bring us to a fuller understanding of our faith—why and how we follow Christ—and of our love for God.
This is premised on humility, that we are imperfect, yet with the deep desire to love and to follow Christ. We are sinners, and yet called to be followers of Christ in his mission.
This is why former Jesuit Superior-General Fr. Pedro Arrupe’s statement, “You have eternity in which to rest,” appeals to people who work for God’s Kingdom. The horizon of our life is eternity. All that we do in this life and world has meaning; our life will not end in death because of the Resurrection.
In the Gospel, Christ ends with his foretelling of his Ascension: “I am going away and I will come back to you. If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father.”
In the Gospel for next Sunday, the Feast of the Ascension, Christ commissions his disciples to bring this Good News to the whole world. It’s a mission to be proclaimed and done with great joy and thanksgiving.
For these three Sundays, we prepare to go into the world to be missionaries again, renewed and recommissioned after three seasons of grace—Lent, Holy Week and Easter.
As in many things in our Christian faith and discipleship, we find in the ordinary the extraordinary grace of God. It is a grace made extraordinary by his Cross, Resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost.
In the ordinary moments of our lives, we are invited to live out these graces, always remembering the Lord’s reminder: “And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe.” —CONTRIBUTED