May 29, 2011
Sixth Sunday of Easter
To love Jesus means to trust him. And that means that we trust
his radical teaching about an ideal of unselfish loving. Those who think
this is dangerous foolishness belong to the "world," which is interested
only in self-promotion and self-protection. The secular ideal is to take
care of oneself first, and to think of others later...which too often
means not at all.
Jesus knows that his teaching seems unpromising and so he sends
to those who try to be unselfish an Advocate who is the "Spirit of
truth." This divine Spirit will be present to our inmost being and will
assure us that the path traced out by Jesus will in fact lead to freedom
and joy. This powerful Spirit will also guide us in knowing how to love
properly in all the circumstances of our lives. This Spirit will also
provide the wisdom required to help us to distinguish between true
self-giving and misguided loving.
Those who are truly concerned for the welfare of others will
often appear foolish and may even be ridiculed for their apparently
improvident behavior. But the Spirit will convince them that they are
with Jesus, and therefore with the Father. For "whoever loves me will be
loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him."
As mere creatures, we are all vulnerable to a deep anxiety about
personal extinction. For this reason, being self-centered becomes a kind
of defense mechanism by which we struggle to hold ourselves together
against all the forces of disintegration. The gospels tell us, however,
that it is only by taking the risk of loving vulnerability that our
identity can be assured. Those who seem to gain their lives in this
world by selfish behavior will lose it, and those who seem to lose their
lives by loving others will gain it back again in the richest measure
In attempting to live this paradox, we are assured of the gift
of the divine Spirit, who will stand by us (which is what
Paraclete/Advocate literally means) and will give us a deep confidence
about the wisdom of the way of Jesus. Contrary to all expectations, the
more we dare to reach out in love to others, the more our "home base"
will be protected and strengthened.
When Jesus promised an Advocate to his disciples, who dreaded
his imminent departure from them, he was telling them that he would be
with them in this divine Spirit more truly than he had ever been present
to them in the flesh. This re-assurance is meant for us also. Sometimes
we may think that those who knew Jesus in his earthly life had a great
advantage over us but this is not at all the case. Jesus is far more
truly present now "in the Spirit" than he ever was in his bodily
existence in Palestine. As we struggle to maintain our identity as good
and loving persons, we must know that Jesus is ever at our side.
The most important consequence of this presence of Jesus in our
lives is the profound conviction, given to us by the Spirit, that we are
embraced by the heavenly Father's love, just as Jesus was embraced by
that love. This is what St. Paul tells us when he writes, "God has sent
the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!'"
(Galatians 4:6). If we listen to this Spirit, we will become ever more
confident, peaceful and generous in spite of the adversities that we may
find in our lives.
Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.