Today’s reflection is for the Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 26, 2019, and the readings can be found by clicking here. This reflection was given as a homily at the Deuel Vocational Institute, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, in Tracy.
In today’s Gospel Jesus tells his disciples, “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.”
I cannot possibly count the number of times I have told my mother that I love her—It’s quite a lot, really, but I can also not possibly count the number of times I have disobeyed her either! In today’s Gospel, Jesus wants to teach us that the opposite of love for God is not hatred of God, but rather disobedience to God’s will. Jesus tells us, If you love me, then act like it!
To love God seems kind of abstract. God is invisible so we can’t exactly hug and kiss, and help and hold God, can we? Maybe we can. I think that’s the brilliance of the New Command that we heard last week that came from John 13:34. Jesus said to love one another. As he has loved us, so should we love one another. I think that if we want to love God whom we cannot see then we should love our neighbor who we can see.
Remember the quote I gave you last week from Saint John Paul II and St. Thomas Aquinas, “Love wills the good of another.” So, it is impossible for us to say right here on Sunday, “I love God,” and then at the same time walk out this door and wish evil upon others, cause violence toward others, refuse to reconcile with others, be impatient, selfish, rude, hurtful, hateful, and unkind to others. If we do we are made liars be our very own actions and attitude.
In the first epistle of John, we hear as much. He teaches, “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. If God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.” (1JN 4:7-11)
We say on Sunday that we love God, but by Sunday afternoon…maybe even after breakfast, we choose not to love our neighbor. I’m not talking about temptation or forgetfulness, or catching ourselves and stopping. I’m talking about catching ourselves failing to love and then doing it anyway. That’s the difference between temptation to sin and indulging in sin.
When we catch ourselves being led into wrongdoing, that’s temptation. And if we catch ourselves and stop, or catch ourselves not doing what we should be doing and make the correction—we’re good. Maybe you’ve been there, where right when you were about to do wrong, you heard a small voice inside you, “Steve, that’s not a good idea! I know you know better than that! That’s not going to turn out well…” Have you heard that voice? We’re going to talk about that voice in a second because that voice is God’s great gift to us! But if we hear that voice, shut it down, drown it out, and think, “Y.O.L.O.!” and do it anyway, then now we’ve given in to that temptation, we’ve ignored the voice of God, knew better, could have done something different, and still chose to do wrong—that’s sin.
Ephesians 6 says, “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun set on your anger, and do not leave room for the devil. The thief must no longer steal, but rather labor, so that he may have something to share with one in need. No foul language should come out of your mouths. All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. [And] be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.” (24-32)
My brothers, the love for God comes with a promise, a promise never to leave us, never to abandon us, always to be in us, and to always speak to us in the depths of our being, directing us to what is good and holy. This gift of God was revealed at the day of Pentecost that we celebrate on June 9. What sadness the disciples must have felt when Jesus told them that he must return to the Father, but what joy upon hearing Jesus’ promise to send his very own Spirit to dwell within them, to guide them, and teach them in every moment how to love God and their neighbor.
In today’s Gospel Jesus said, “I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” God was out there, far away, approachable to only a select few who mediated God’s message to others. And then in an amazing act of love, God sent his only begotten Son to earth, to live with disciples and teach them about God, and how to love pray. But at Pentecost God sent his own Spirit to make his home in us. In our heart, in our head, in our bodies. We can now hear the very voice of god guiding us to do what is right, standing beside us to encourage us to do the good, regardless of the cost.
The Advocate stands with us, speaks through us, says to Satan—back off this one’s mine, and says to God, I’m making up the difference for what he owes. I’m good for it. He’s with us. The Advocate has attorney-client privileges. He is in your heart—speak to him, and hear his voice. He has a lot to say if we have ears to hear and hearts open to hear it. Amen.