6th Sunday of Easter – John 14: 15- 21- Absent does not mean unavailable, await the Holy Spirit
The Gospels in the Easter season, taken from St John’s gospel, seem to be set in flashback mode. We are in the Easter season recalling the conversations of a Lenten Lord. It’s like a long reminiscing, stretching fifty days; a recalling of the promises that Jesus made to His disciples.
The Gospel of today is part of the farewell discourse of Jesus which covers chapters thirteen to seventeen. The discourse was part of the Last Supper. Jesus has washed His disciples feet, predicted a number of times His impending suffering and death, and now foretells Peter’s denial, triggering off a wave of fear. Chapter fourteen thus begins with the comforting and reassuring words of Jesus, “Do not let your hearts be troubled, trust in God and trust in me.”
His words take time to settle in, for in rapid succession questions fly; first from Thomas, then Philip and finally Judas Thaddeus. “We don’t know the way, how can we know where you are going?”, “Show us the Father and we will be satisfied”, “How will you reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” And so Jesus calms their fears as He does with ours, when we are afraid.
Today’s gospel contains words of reassurance and promise, but also instruction. Interestingly, some scholars have opined that the Bible contains 7484 promises; and God is known to keep His promise. Jesus promises to send us ‘another Advocate’ to be with us forever so that we are not “orphaned”; yet He must go away first.
This may all seem a bit odd. Why must He go? How can He leave us and yet say He loves us? We must understand that ‘absent does not mean unavailable’. Even though the Lord is not physically present to us, He is still available to us. ‘How so’ you may ask. The answer is in today’s Gospel; He promises ‘another advocate’.
We must understand that in John’s gospel, Jesus is the advocate, pleading our cause; hence the Holy Spirit is the ‘other advocate’ who will come only after Jesus has left. Jesus was the first; for the Spirit to be active among the disciples while Jesus was there, would have been redundant since Jesus and the Holy Spirit serves the same revelatory function.
Is the Spirit then ‘different’ from Jesus? No! There are two words in Greek for the word ‘another’. The first is ‘heteros’ meaning ‘another of a different kind’ and the second word is ‘allos’ meaning ‘another of the same kind’. The Gospel uses the word ‘allos’ to describe the Holy Spirit.
So to give you an example; If I don’t like this pen, I would say give me “heteros”, another pen of a different kind. But in referring to the Holy Spirit, St John uses the word “allos”. So assume now I like this pen but you like it too, so I give it to you and say I will get “allos”, another pen for myself but of the same kind. Hence when Jesus says, I will give you ‘another advocate’ what He is saying is, ‘I will give you another Spirit of the same kind as me’. In this, His promise is fulfilled and we are not abandoned.
What then about our promise? Jesus began the pericope by saying, “if you love me you will keep my commandments.” Jesus is making it clear that He is not a ‘like button’ on Facebook; He is love and we are called to love Him. In Chapter thirteen of the same Gospel and again in chapter fifteen, He will tell us what that commandment is – “Love one another as I have loved you.” In returning to the Father, Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit to watch over us but, He also wants us to watch over each other.
The Easter community of faith is thus a community where each one cares for another. In Lent we find ourselves contemplating on the suffering of Jesus and are inclined to reach out in service to others. Easter must be an intensification of that giving in love. What began in Lent must peak in the Easter season. The sixth Sunday of Easter is a reminder, ‘if you love me you will keep my commandment to love one another’ and I will keep my promise to send you “allos” advocate in your time of need so that you are never left orphaned.
Jesus kept His promise.
Written on behalf of the Holy Spirit
Fr Warner D’Souza