6th Sunday of Easter, Year A – 17
Acts 8:5-8, 14-17/ 1 Peter 3:15-18/ John 14:15-21
There is this story of a couple with a young son and they were looking around for a place to rent. Finally, they came upon a place that was owned by an elderly man, and they really liked the place.
So, when the couple inquired about the rent, the old gentleman said, “I would gladly let you have this place, but I don’t rent it out to couples with children.” glancing at the young boy as he said this.
Of course, the couple was disappointed with this, so they turned to leave. After walking a couple of steps, the young boy turned and went back to the house and knocked on the door.
The elderly gentleman opened the door and saw the young boy and said, “Oh, it’s you. What do you want?” The young boy said, “I want to rent this place!”
The elderly gentleman said, “But I don’t rent it out to couples with children.” And the boy replied, “I don’t have children. I only have parents. So, how much is the rent?”
Not surprising actually, because nowadays the young children can think so fast and they are able to give a reply to whatever we say to them. We may have to admit that the young are better educated than us and they certainly know more than us.
But being better educated is not just about thinking fast and having something to say about everything. The 2nd reading spells out the purpose of a Christian education and formation.
It says this: Reverence the Lord in your hearts, and always have your answer ready for people who ask you for the reason for the hope that you have.
It continues by saying: But give it with courtesy and respect and with a clear conscience so that those who slander you when you are living a good life in Christ may be proved wrong in the accusations that they bring.
In the gospel, Jesus tells us that He will give us an Advocate (a Helper/Defender) to be with us forever. And this Advocate is the Spirit of Truth, who will help us to love Jesus and keep His commandments.
And this Spirit of Truth, this Advocate is indeed helping us to understand our faith and defend it. Jesus is saying goodbye to his disciples. He sees them sad and upset, because soon they won’t have him with them – and who can fill that void?
Until now he has been the one who took care of them, defended them from the Scribes and Pharisees, sustained their weak and faltering faith, described for them the truth of God, and initiated them into God’s great family project for humanity.
Jesus speaks to them passionately about the Spirit. He doesn’t want to leave them orphans. He himself will ask the Father not to abandon them, to give them ‘another Advocate’ that will ‘always be with them.’ Jesus calls this advocate ‘the Spirit of truth.’
What is hidden behind these words of Jesus? This “Spirit of truth” mustn’t be confused with a doctrine. This truth won’t be sought in theologians’ books or in the hierarchy’s documents. It’s something much more profound.
Jesus says that this Spirit “lives in us and is within us”. This Spirit is encouragement, power, light, love… that reaches us from God’s ultimate mystery. We must welcome this Spirit with a simple and trusting heart.
This “Spirit of truth” doesn’t change us into “owners” of the truth. It doesn’t come so that we impose our faith on others, or control their orthodoxy. It comes so that we aren’t left as orphans of Jesus, and invites us to be open to Jesus’ truth: listening, welcoming and living his Gospel.
Nor does this “Spirit of truth” make us “keepers” of the truth, but witnesses. Our task isn’t to argue with, oppose or overthrow adversaries, but to live the truth of the Gospel and “love Jesus, keeping his commands”.
This ‘Spirit of truth’ is within each one of us, defending us from all that can separate us from Jesus. It invites us to open ourselves with simplicity to the mystery of a God who is the Friend of life. Whoever seeks this God with honesty and truth isn’t far off from God.
Jesus said on one occasion: “Everyone who is of the truth, listens to my voice”. That’s both a deep truth and a challenging invitation. This ‘Spirit of truth’ invites us to live in the truth of Jesus in the midst of a society where all too often “Alternative Facts” masquerade as the truth.
How often nowadays are lies justified as strategy, exploitation is called business, irresponsibility is called tolerance, injustice is called status quo, arbitrariness is called freedom, lack of respect is called sincerity….
The fundamental message of Jesus’ moral teaching is that we are obligated to love God and our neighbor. We cannot love one without the other. It is impossible to compartmentalize God and people such that they remain unconnected.
Our dealings with others have implications for our friendship with God. This is how, in practice, we connect love and rules. If we love God, we will keep his commandments. If we love our neighbor, we will not treat him/her unjustly.
Nowadays, many people dismiss moral imperatives as being irrelevant to modern life. They are often viewed negatively because they are judged to be imposing limitations on our freedom. However, that is not so.
Fidelity to Jesus’ commandments enables us to live freely in the presence of God who cares for us. Contrary to popular opinion, the purpose of Jesus’ moral demands is to enable us to appreciate the freedom of living according to God’s will.
It is not to make our lives miserable. Faithfulness to his commandments is the benchmark of our love for him and, in fact, for ourselves and our neighbor. The teaching of Jesus offers us clear instructions to enable us to be faithful to God’s will.
It summarizes what is required in order to live a wholesome life that reflects God’s truth and beauty. Its purpose is to rid our lives of selfishness and self-centeredness so that we can learn to put God and other people first, and ourselves last.
When our consciences are formed by Jesus’ teaching, we know the difference between right and wrong. Living according to his teaching ensures genuine happiness in this life and eternal happiness in heaven.
May the Spirit of truth defend and guard us against evil and falsehood.
May the Holy Spirit, our Advocate, empower us to give a prayerful and firm response with our faith so that others will be able to see the reason for the hope that we have.
And let us love the Lord and keep His commandments, and teach others to do the same. That’s what a good education is all about. Amen.