Wed, May 18, 202210 mins readFather Hans Buob

6th Sunday after Easter

Biblical Homilies on the Sunday Gospels in Reading Year C

Ⓒ Photo by Tomáš Malík on Pexels.

Bible passages

John 14:23-29

Jesus answered and said to him, "Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me. "I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name - he will teach you everything and remind you of all that (I) told you. Peace, I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You heard me tell you, '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; for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe.

Biblical Homilies

"Jesus answered and said to him, "Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him." (cf. verse 23)

Let us listen again today to this wonderful word of God that Jesus spoke in the Upper Room. Both the Father and the Son will come to a disciple who loves Jesus and holds fast to his word and dwell with him. That which was already indicated in Jn 14:21 - "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." - is continued here. Jesus' coming is thus at its climax. The disciple is now included in the community of the life and love of God. This is the fulfilment of the Old Testament promise of God's dwelling with his people in the last days, i.e., in the time between the first and second coming of Jesus.

Now the disciples are where Jesus is. However, the manifest beholding of the glory will only be in the heavenly world into which Jesus has gone before us. There the Father will honour the one who follows Jesus here in life serving: "Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honour whoever serves me." (John 12:26)

"Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me." (cf. verse 24)

In this verse, Jesus gives Judas an indirect answer to what has preceded, namely to Judas' planned betrayal (Jn 13:21-30) and to his question: "Lord, why will you reveal yourself only to us and not to the world" (Jn 14:22). Just like Judas, our time does not respect the words of Jesus and therefore does not love and understand him. We must first accept the Word of God. If we only critically tweak every word, God will not reveal Himself to us in His Word. Jesus' word: "My sheep hear my voice" (Jn 10:27), on the other hand, means attentive listening to the one who laid down his life for us as a prerequisite for God to reveal himself to us through his word.

Because many Christians also lack this listening, God cannot reveal himself. That is a very clear warning. And if someone claims that he cannot believe and cannot accept the Word of God, he should ask himself whether he hears at all. Is he even willing to let God tell him something?

"I have told you this while I am with you." (cf. verse 25)

The phrase "I have spoken it to you" repeatedly appears in the 15th and 16th chapters of John's Gospel. It marks, as it were, the conclusion of the internal instruction of the disciples, just as Jesus had already concluded the public proclamation before the world in ch. 12: "As long as you have the light with you, believe in the light, so that you may become sons of light. This is what Jesus said. And he went away and hid from them." (John 12:36). Jesus draws attention to the significance of the words he spoke on earth: there is no new revelation of God beyond his death, but the words he spoke on earth have lasting validity. The words of Jesus in the time of his earthly pilgrimage, of his earthly life, are irreplaceable and unsurpassable by new revelations. There is no new revelation.

That is why the disciples are to bear witness to his words, which the Holy Spirit will remind them of, as clearly stated in v. 26. His words have their limit in the disciples' power of comprehension. But since the disciples are not yet redeemed, his words often remain mysterious to them. That is why it is often said after a word of Jesus: "They did not yet understand him". The deeper meaning of Jesus' words remains closed to them. Jesus himself points to this problem, e.g., in Jn 16:25: "I have told you this in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures, but I will tell you clearly about the Father." So, something still has to happen for these words, for this revelation, to be genuinely present and proclaimed to the whole world at all times. And indeed, after Jesus' resurrection, the disciples remember what he had said. But this remembering is the work of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus earned for them through his redemption. The Holy Spirit and his mission are thus a necessary condition for the message and revelation of Jesus, which is completed with his death, not to be lost.

This, in turn, points to the necessity of the Magisterium of the Church, in which we have a guarantee that the Holy Spirit will deepen this revelation of Jesus to us evermore. That is why the Word of God develops more and more to recognise it more and more deeply throughout the centuries. It is precisely in the saints and in the mystics, who fully allow the Spirit of God, that we glimpse this ever-deeper knowledge of the Word of God and the revelation of Jesus. This is also the meaning of the dogmas, in whose formulations the Spirit of God opens up the revelations of Jesus to us ever more precisely. Without this Holy Spirit, much of the revelation of Jesus would have been lost to us because the meaning of his words was still closed to the disciples at that time.

"The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name - he will teach you everything and remind you of all that (I) told you." (cf. verse 26)

Jesus speaks here to the twelve apostles, the shepherds of the Church, and assures them: The Spirit of God will teach you everything and remind you of everything. But this promise does not only apply to the twelve apostles but to all who follow them. For it would be unworthy of God if, with their death, his revelation was suddenly lost again. If God becomes man to bring us the complete revelation, he also guarantees us that even after 2000 years, we still possess the whole truth - perhaps even more profoundly, because the Spirit of God has already been able to work in the Church for 2000 years.

So, we have not missed anything. We are not too late. Only the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, will teach the disciples everything because they could not yet understand many things without him. The Paraclete's promise in this verse is a counter-image to the momentary situation in the Upper Room before Jesus' death and resurrection, where the disciples have only a poor understanding. Jesus could not say everything in complete comprehension in the short time available. Therefore, he left the further teaching to the Paraclete. The Holy Spirit will continue and complete his work, not by teaching new things but by deepening what Jesus taught.

"He will remind you of everything." Nothing will be lost. That is the teaching authority of the Church. Jesus promised it to the apostles, and that is our guarantee. That is why we also call the Holy Scriptures in which the disciples and their disciples - Luke and Mark - wrote everything down, Spirit-breathed. It is not simply a human word or a human idea but inspired by the Holy Spirit. And what is inspired by the Holy Spirit has been determined by the Magisterium of the Church. That is the teaching of the Church. This is also perhaps quite interesting for non-Catholic Christians. They are guaranteed that the Holy Scriptures are the Word of God inspired by the Holy Spirit, only through the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. For at various synods and councils, the Church has determined which writings among the many other writings that existed at that time, some of which we still know today as the so-called Apocrypha, are the writings inspired by the Holy Spirit and which are not. That is the work of the Spirit in the teaching and the inspired Word of God. So, because we have this guarantee through the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, we may serve and rejoice in all other Christians and people through this New Testament tradition.

But the other function of the Paraclete is to remind us of everything that Jesus himself said. This is ultimately his teaching. The first function is to teach, the second to remember, but both belong together. Jesus speaks of the sending of the Holy Spirit by the Father, just as he, Jesus, was sent by the Father. Similarly, in Gal 4:6, Paul speaks of the sending of the Holy Spirit into our hearts: "As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!" And in 1 Peter 1:12, it is said, "It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you with regard to the things that have now been announced to you by those who preached the good news to you (through) the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels longed to look."

So, the mission of the Son and the mission of the Holy Spirit are in one line. The mission of the Holy Spirit is the continuation of the mission of the Son. That is why Jesus says: "Rejoice when I go to the Father so that he will send you in my name the one who reminds you of everything and teaches you everything and carries on through the millennia what he has received from the Father. There we feel, as it were, this one line of the mission of the Son and the mission of the Holy Spirit.

"Peace, I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid." (cf. verse 27)

Jesus does not say goodbye with an ordinary greeting but with the gift of peace. For peace is not meant here in the sense of a greeting, but an expression of eschatological salvation, that is, of the final salvation that Jesus has earned for us through redemption. With the coming of Jesus, this salvation is offered to man. In the proclamation, this peace becomes effective as a gift of the Lord.

This, then, is the greeting of the Risen Lord. It is a peace for the great tribulation in the world, as it says in the Secret Revelation: Peace I leave behind, peace I give to you. Jesus promises us this peace in the present tense: not "I will give" or "I have given", but "I give". It is, therefore, a permanent condition. Wherever the message of Jesus is proclaimed, it will communicate the gift of peace. Let us think of the martyrs. Or also of ourselves, of all situations in which other people may be in despair or become confused, but where - if we are in contact with Jesus and in unity with one another and ask the Spirit of God - we find inner peace, and very quickly come to inner peace in the certainty: God has everything in hand. Everything has a meaning. That is the gift of peace. In every Eucharistic celebration, this gift is communicated. But we often do not accept it as a gift of the Risen Lord, but pray in a very formulaic way: "and with your spirit". Sometimes we even say to the person sitting next to us, perhaps not at all seriously meant, "Peace be with you". Yet this peace of Christ, the knowledge that I am in God's hands, from which no one can snatch me away, is such a great and lasting gift and encompasses all areas of life.

In Paul, it is the "striving of the Spirit" (Rom 8:6) or the "fruit of the Spirit." (Gal 5:22) Together with righteousness and joy, peace is the manifestation of the kingdom of God: "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of food and drink, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit." (Rom 14:17). For John, peace is specific to the time of the Spirit from the first to the second coming of the Lord. The world cannot give such peace. It is so profound that the world cannot disturb or even destroy it.

From this, Jesus' encouragement (and exhortation) is to be understood: "Do not let your hearts be troubled or despondent." After all that Jesus has said up to this point about the fellowship of the disciples with Jesus and the Father, he repeats once again, reinforcing the encouragement not to despair. We have fellowship with the Father and the Son. We have no reason to despair. The Greek word for "do not despair" "deiliao" (δειλιαω) belongs to the word field of "phobos" (φοβοσ), "fear". We are to overcome fear in the presence of Christ: "My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father's hand. The Father and I are one." (John 10:27-30)

"You heard me tell you, '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; for the Father is greater than I." (cf. verse 28)

Jesus clarifies that his departure to the Father does not require sadness from the disciples but even joy. Sadness would certainly be the most usual reaction since he announced leaving them. But it is about their love for Jesus. If out of it they hold fast to his word and obey him, the joy over his departure springs from it. For if he does not leave, the Holy Spirit will not come to guide us into these words, which we hold on to out of love for Jesus. Therefore, not only peace but also joy belongs to the basic mood of the disciple.

The statement "the Father is greater than I" also seems strange at first. But it expresses the voluntary subordination of the Son to the Father; connected, however, with Son's claim to the same fullness of life (Jn 10:30: "The Father and I are one" and Jn 5:26: "For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has also given the Son to have life in Himself. "), to the same divine being (Jn 1:1: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.") and to the same glory (Jn 17:5: "Father, glorify me now with you, with the glory that I had with you before the world was."). Because everything comes from the Father, because in him everything is brought to its goal, Jesus subordinates himself to the Father. Similarly, we find this in Mt 11:27 and Lk 10:22: "All things have been handed over to me by my Father," as well as in Jn 15:15: "I have communicated to you all things that I have heard from my Father."

Therefore, of course, Jesus is no less God than the Father, but he has always submitted himself to the Father, and he will not proclaim anything that he has not heard from the Father. And also, the Holy Spirit, for his part, "will not speak from himself, but he will say what he hears and proclaim to you what is to come. He will glorify me; for he will take of the things that are mine and declare them to you."(Jn 16:13-14) Also, the sending and glorification of the Son (Jn 13:32: "If God is glorified in him, God also will glorify him in himself, and he will soon glorify him.") Jesus has in common with the Father, and yet he has submitted himself to the Father, is sent by him. So, the Father will prove to be the greater in the glorification of His Son.

The glorification of the Son, his exaltation on the cross, and his redemption bring the disciples the fulfilment of all that Jesus spoke of. Through this, Jesus glorifies the Father as the Father glorified him.

"And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe." (cf. verse 29)

Jesus here again takes up the exhortation to faith from v. 1 of this chapter: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me." (Jn 14:1) But they still lack the Holy Spirit, who will then finally introduce them to faith and impart His gifts to them. The perfect tense "eireka" (ειρηκα), "I have told you", means his whole speech, that is, everything he has ever said to them. "Even now, I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may come to believe". When this glorification happens, and the Spirit is sent as the fruit of salvation, the disciples are to recognise everything in this Holy Spirit and come to believe in all the words that Jesus has told them and which they may not now be able to accept. This outlook into the future is to take away all terror from them.

But all this also applies to us: we need not be afraid that with his death, everything is over, and everything he said will be forgotten. We have the gift of the Holy Spirit! We are baptised and confirmed. We have been born into salvation through baptism, most of us right after birth. We have this faith. We may accept this fruit of Jesus' glorification on the cross, our redemption. Jesus' words are, therefore, a glimpse into the future that removes all terror from us. Even in our situation and time, in all the uncertainty we now live in, we know that we are in his hands, no matter what will happen in the world - economically and politically. We and ultimately all people are in his hand, all the so-called great powers and forces of the world, up to and including Satan. They must all ultimately serve God's plan. And even when it comes to our lives, we know that we will enter into the glory of the Father. We have that assurance through the inspired Word of God that Jesus tells us now in this passage, "Even now have I told you before it comes to pass, that when it comes to pass, ye might come to believe." This is the true peace that comes only from God.