Easter 6A: Love and Communion in the Spirit

Gospel Text : John 14:15-21

In the Footprints of Loneliness, the Servant of God Catherine DeHueck Doherty (d. 1985) wrote: 

Loneliness is a terrible thing, and we must do something about it.  It is here that tenderness, gentleness, and understanding helps us to live…  Gentleness and tenderness assuage loneliness and make it possible to disappear…Tenderness is the ability to be present, extending the warmth of my heart to your heart.
Roald Amundsen, the great Norwegian explorer who discovered the South Pole took a homing pigeon with him on his trip. He told his wife that if he reached the end of the world, he would release the pigeon. His wife sat for hours, all alone in their big house looking up the sky for the promised pigeon. One day she looked out the bedroom window and saw the pigeon circling in the sky above. “He’s alive!” she cried, “My husband is alive!” (Munachi, cssp)
A sailboat got caught in heavy seas. A rogue wave flipped the boat over. The heavy keel righted the boat, but there was heavy damage. A SOS brought the Coast Guard (CG). The seas were so rough the CG ship could not rescue the crew. So, it placed itself as close as it could to the sailboat. The CG protected the sailboat from the brunt of the 10 foot waves. Finally they made port.  

 The Holy Spirit plays the same relation to us. He takes the brunt of our troubles. He not only lives inside us but also He walks beside us. He brings us into port. (Unknown)

Last SHe begins by making the statement; If you love me, you will keep my commandments.? Jesus teaches us to view commandments in a new way, that was different than how the first followers had been taught by the Pharisee Commandments are not merely a list of behaviors to be followed or avoided out of duty. Commandments are to be lived as an act of love. If we love someone we do what pleases them. This love moves us to do things we might not want to do, and even things that we might see as being difficult or a sacrifice. Jesus calls us to look at the commandments through the prism of love and to live them out of our love for God. (Killian Lock, OSB) 

Michel de VerteuilGeneral comments
Like last Sunday’s passage, this reading will seem abstract to you at first, but situate it in the context of the Last Supper and you will recognize the movement of Jesus’ thought from your own experience and from the lives of great people you have known or read about. As always, it may be helpful to divide the passage and meditate on one section at a time.
Verses 15 to 17: Jesus makes a difference between the way he has been present to the disciples until then and the way he will be present to them after he leaves them. Read it from the point of view of a teacher or a parent who must leave children, or from your memories of any teaching that was outside yourself and then became part of you.
Verses 18 and 19: The same movement expressed in a new metaphor – being orphaned and then realizing that we are not lost after all.
Verse 20: This is a precious verse. It describes the moment when we read the story of Jesus in the gospels and discover that it is not the story of someone outside ourselves, but our own story, and that therefore our stories are really sacred. Great teachers can promise their followers that one day they will experience something similar.
Verse 21: Jesus describes the process of getting to know him, starting from a different point – the person follows his teaching and then enters into a deep relationship with him.

Prayer Reflection
       Lord, we thank you that you have called us to be leaders in our community.
At present things are going well:
there is trust among us, we share many things, and we are working together.
But we know that this will not last forever,
and so we pray that the values we have grown to believe in may become part of us,
so that even though the majority of people around us do not accept them,
we may continue to live by them,
Global heroesand even though outwardly we will no longer be a community,
we may remain one because of that inner bond that unites us.
Lord, from time to time you send us a wonderful person
who guides and inspires us;
when they die or leave us we feel orphaned.
But then we discover that they are still with us.
Others – even our friends – cannot understand this,
but we know that this person is alive,
and we know that our lives are fuller because of this.
Lord, forgive us that we always want to see things:
– we have become so dependent on external stimuli;
– we must be listening to the radio or watching the television;
– we need to hear sermons or read spiritual books.
Teach us to quieten ourselves so that we may listen to our inner rhythms:
– the memories we have, both painful and happy;
– the deep longings of our hearts;
– the instincts of our nature.
Remind us that Jesus prayed for us
that you would make your presence known to us within the truth of ourselves.
Lord, we thank you for those wonderful moments of grace
when we knew that our lives were sacred.
We had read the story of Jesus, but it was the story of someone else
– the story of the saints, of extraordinary people.
Now we experienced that we too are living Jesus lives,
and we are your presence in the world.
Lord, we thank you for people we have known who are not Christians
but who love the teachings of Jesus and keep them.
We know, Father, that you love them as we love them,
and we pray that you may continue to show yourself to them.
Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration
We gather to celebrate in the presence of the risen Lord. We are called to be the people who bear witness to his victory over death. We are the people who proclaim the Father’s forgiveness to the ends of the earth by being people who are forgiving.
Homily notes
1. The demanding stance on how Christians are to react to persecution in 1 Peter makes this a fine occasion to reflect on the ever present question of Christians and violence.
 Amidst the continuing carnage in the Central African Republic, leaders of churches and mosques are jointly praying for peace2. It is interesting to note the number of times that public figures quote scripture without knowing it (e.g. ‘going the extra mile for peace’ (President Clinton) is an allusion to Mt 5:41) and it is cited both with approval and non-approval. Invariably when one hears quotations on non-violence cited, they are implied to be feeble and silly, if not downright wrong: thus ‘turn the other cheek’ (Mt 5:39) is not presented as the statement of wisdom, but of a stupidity that acquiesces to evil. While few who declare themselves Christians take the hawkish position of ‘take ’em on, take ’em out!’, there is an awareness that one must stand up to bullies, those who abuse power, those who trample on other’s rights, especially those who abuse the weak, poor, defenceless.

Amidst the continuing carnage in the Central African Republic, leaders of churches and mosques are jointly praying for peace
This dilemma has lead to the traditional unwillingness of the church to adopt a pacifist position. Pacifism has a simple attractiveness, but the pacifist must ask this question: is it right for me not to oppose someone who if not stopped will destroy not only me, but others who may not be able to stand up for themselves? While using force can appear immoral, pacifism too can be immoral in that I am passively collaborating in suffering being caused to others. Thus I may, in the exercise of my freedom, be destroying the freedom of others. Pacifism poses moral problems, and can be a selfish opting out of our moral responsibilities to others weaker than ourselves. This is a dilemma; but we are certain that those who set out to dominate others act evilly, and a wilful hawkishness cannot be reconciled with Christianity for which force is always a last resort.
3. However, the situation envisaged in 1 Peter is slightly different: how should Christians react when they are being persecuted as Christians – it is their behaviour precisely as Christians that is the issue. They are to give an account of their beliefs but to do so with courtesy. Put another way, they do make their stand known, but do not ‘fight fire with fire’. They cannot have recourse to methods of bullying, force, or intolerance, for that would betray the Christ in whom they seek to live. As Christ chose the way of gentleness, so when challenged Christians must act with gentleness: otherwise their words preach one thing, their actions another. This is a hard lesson: the recurrence of the notions of crusade and pro Deo et patria (God gets first billing, but usually takes second place) testify to this. And sadly these notions are far from dead, as various right-wing Christian groups demonstrate in their readiness’ to fight for gospel values’. Their very militancy compromises the Christ they wish to serve.
4. 1 Peter makes deep moral demands on us. As a Christian how fitted am I to give an account of my faith? Is my understanding of the Christian message a few’ do’s and don’ts’ and some scraps of information remembered from school? Do I appreciate there is a Christian manner of action? Am I conscious of how others are persecuted for their beliefs, or feel a sense of solidarity with Christians who suffer elsewhere? As a member of a body which was born in persecution and whose head suffered on the cross, am I sensitive to the pain of all who are oppressed, and seek to alleviate their persecution? Is a document such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights something that I consider should interest me as a Christian? Do I support those who support human rights? Painful questions, but can we be true to our origin if we shy away from them?
John Litteton
Gospel Reflection
We do not instinctively associate the concept of love with the demand to be faithful to a series of rules. People often speak about love as if it is in opposition to rules and regulations: ‘all you need is love’ and ‘love and do what you will’ are the type of sayings that are used in discussions as evidence that we do not need to worry about rules.
Yet, in the farewell speech to his disciples, Jesus was uncompromising when he explained the necessary connection between loving him and keeping his commandments: ‘If you love me you will keep my commandments’ (Jn 14:15).
In that speech, Jesus dealt with several other concerns. But he then returned to the link between love and the commandments: ‘Anyone who receives my commandments and keeps them will be one who loves me; and anybody who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I shall love him and show myself to him’ (Jn 14:21).
The central commandment of Jesus’ teaching was to love God and love neighbour. That commandment summarised the basic moral behaviours and ritual practices that Jesus required from his disciples. Those behaviours and practices formed the charter of what it meant for them to live as his followers.
To claim that Jesus never taught non-violent resistance is to skip over a fairly large chunk of the New Testament and isn't intellectually honest ...Jesus’ moral teaching is best summarised in the Sermon on the Mount (see Mt 5-7) or the Sermon on the Plain (see Lk 6) where he expands the Ten Commandments, making them more demanding. For example, the commandment not to kill is developed to prohibit undue anger with another person, and the commandment not to commit adultery is developed to prohibit even lustful thinking.

To claim that Jesus never taught non-violent resistance is to skip over a fairly large chunk of the New Testament and isn’t intellectually honest …
The ethical teaching of Jesus provides us with definite instructions for everyday living. It stresses the need for correct and respectful relationships with God and with one another. It teaches us that we cannot separate our relationship with God from our various relationships with other people. This means that we cannot have a straightforward vertical relationship with God without also having a horizontal relationship with God through our relationships with the people we meet in everyday life.
The fundamental message of Jesus’ moral teaching is that we are obligated to love God and our neighbour. We cannot love one without the other. It is impossible to compartmentalise 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 neighbour, 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 neighbour.
The teaching of Jesus offers us clear instructions to enable us to be to be faithful to God’s will. It summarises 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 selfcentredness 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.
For meditation
If you love me you will keep my commandments. (Jn14:15)
Fr Donal Neary, S.J
No body now but yours
St Teresa’s prayer is popular in this adaptation-
Christ has no body now but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which he looks with compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do well.
Yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
You are his eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which he looks with compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Jesus speaks in the gospel about being still alive, even after his death. Mostly we find Jesus alive in the love of others. The energy of love that is connected to the energy of God, for God is love. Other times we find God close to us in prayer; but where we can sense him alive mostly is in the ordinary and extraordinary loves of every day, in marriage, family, friendship and care for others.
Many of us do not realise that in this way we have been Christ-bearers. In listening to another, in care of all sorts, in putting ourselves out for the other, in working for justice and for peace the Spirit of God is alive and people are touched by God’s love through the co-operation of ordinary men and women.
From The Connections:

In legal terminology, an advocate defends the accused on trial.  For the writer of the Fourth Gospel, Christ is the first “Advocate,” who comes to liberate humanity from the slavery of sin.  The second “Advocate,” promised by Jesus in today’s Gospel, is the Spirit of truth, the Church’s living, creative memory in which the mystery of God’s love, revealed by and in Christ, lives for all time.

The Spirit of truth, “whom the world cannot accept,” illuminates our vision and opens our hearts to discern the will and wisdom of God.  The Spirit/Paraclete “advocates” for what is good, what is right and what is just, despite our skepticism, rejection and blindness to the things of God.
The Risen Christ challenges us, in the gift of the “Spirit of truth,” not to approach truth in terms of profit, power, comfort or convention, but to embrace the truth of God’s justice and compassion present in our world.
Throughout his Gospel, the writer of John’s Gospel never allows love, as taught by Jesus, to remain at the level of sentiment or emotion.  Its expression is always highly moral and is revealed in obedience to the will of the Father.  To love as Jesus loved – in total and selfless obedience, without conditions and without expectation of that love ever being returned – is the difficult love that Jesus expects of those who claim to be his disciples.
The Spirit of truth is the creative, living memory of the Church.  Through that “living memory,” the Church enters into the mystery of Christ himself.  Jesus, the wise Rabbi, the compassionate Healer, the Friend of rich and poor and said and sinner, the obedient and humble Servant of God, is a living presence among us to give us hope, strength and light as we struggle to balance and direct our lives until he calls us to the new life of his Resurrection.

The wonder of an idea
It was the custom in an African tribe that, when a boy reached a certain age, his elders would send him out into the world beyond the village to bring back something of value to share with the tribe.  In this rite of passage, boys would return with all kinds of treasures and wonders: brilliant kente textiles, luminous gem stones and rare ivory carvings, beautiful tanned leather and pelts.
One year, as the returning young travelers showed off their treasures to the elders, one boy stood off to the side.  He had brought back no trinket or object.
When it was his turn, the elders asked the boy, “What is the most valuable thing you have found on your journey?”
The boy replied, “The thing of value I have discovered cannot be held in the hand.”
“Why not?  Is it too big or too delicate to hold?”
“It can be big or small, delicate or strong.”
“Well, then, where is it?” asked the elders.
“It is here,” the boy said, touching a finger to the side of his head.  “In our brains.  You see, I found on my journey that the most valuable thing in the world is an idea because you must believe in it and work very hard to bring it to life.”
[Original source unknown.]
In his Last Supper discourse, Jesus calls his disciples to bring to life the “idea” of his Gospel: to bring to reality God’s “idea” of a just world, a human family reconciled to God and to one another, a church formed by God’s grace that mirrors his mercy and compassion.  To that end, Jesus promises the coming of another “Advocate” (Jesus being the first): the Spirit of God that inspires us and animates us to make for the perfect union of Jesus’ words and our works.  The Spirit of God, “advocates” for what is good, right and just, despite our skepticism, rejection and blindness to the things of God.  May the Advocate guide us in whatever opportunities every one of us has to restore hope, to make right what has been broken, to bring back the lost and forgotten and marginalized — to bring to life the “idea” of God. 


From Fr. Tony Kadavil's Collection:

1: The Winners:  
Upon until 1987, only eleven horses had won the coveted Triple Crown in Thoroughbred racing. What is it that makes some horses winning thoroughbreds? Why is it that some horses have more speed, strength and stamina than other horses? Essentially, of course, these traits have to come from within the horses themselves: from their own inner capacity and from their inherited gene structure. Still, it seems that they also need help from outside. To become champions, they need the help of expert trainers and skilful jockeys to activate and develop their inner powers.  It is the same with us. Born human, we have within us capacities to love, learn, choose, work and so on. But we need the help of parents, teachers and friends to activate and develop these capacities so that we can reach our full human potential. That is why we need the Holy Spirit and why Jesus promised to send Him to us: “I will ask the Father and He will give you another Paraclete – to be with you always; to remain with you and be within you.” (Albert Cylwicki in ‘His Word Resounds)’

2: A multimillion dollar airplane, running out of fuel:
In 1991 an Air Canada flight ran into big trouble. Passengers were enjoying an in-flight movie on the Boeing 767 when the jumbo jet's massive engines abruptly stopped. At first only those without earphones on noticed anything. However, soon it was apparent the jet was in trouble. The pilot came on the speaker system and announced that Flight 143 would be making an emergency landing in a nearby aerodrome.  The 69 people on board were trapped in an agonizingly slow but inescapable descent to earth. For several minutes a desperate silence hung over the cabin. Then fear gave way to screams of anxiety as the landing neared. All the latest technology could not keep the jumbo jet in the air. What had happened was this. The electronic digital fuel gauge was out of order. So the flight crew had depended on the figures given them by the refuelling crew before takeoff. But someone on the refuelling crew had confused pounds with kilograms. Therefore, eight hundred miles short of its destination, that mighty jet simply ran out of fuel and was forced to make an emergency landing. Fortunately no one was injured. A multimillion dollar airplane, headed in the right direction, but running out of fuel – that's what's happening to a lot of people today. They have everything in life going for them -- a new car, a wonderful home, a good education, and a good job -- and one day they wake up out of fuel. At the center of their lives there is emptiness. They don't know why they are living. There is nothing outside of themselves to live for. Don't let that happen to you. Jesus tells us that the power for successful living comes from God. It is the promised gift that Jesus offers us. "Peace be with you," he says. "My peace I give to you, not as the world gives you. Let not your hearts be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me."
One of the best newspaper cartoons of all time is Calvin and Hobbes. One day Calvin and Hobbes come marching into the living room early one morning. His mother is seated there in her favorite chair. She is sipping her morning coffee. She looks up at young Calvin. She is amused and amazed at how he is dressed. Calvin's head is encased in a large space helmet. A cape is draped around his neck, across his shoulders, down his back and is dragging on the floor. One hand is holding a flashlight and the other a baseball bat. 

"What's up today?" asks his mom.
"Nothing, so far," answers Calvin.
"So far?" she questions.
"Well, you never know," Calvin says, "Something could happen today." Then Calvin marches off, "And if anything does, by golly, I'm going to be ready for it!" 

Calvin's mom looks out at the reading audience and she says, "I need a suit like that!" 

That's the way many of us feel as we see the news and deal with life. Sometimes this world seems quite violent and people seem to be at each other's throats. A suit like that would help, so we can say with Calvin, "Whatever may come my way, I'm going to be ready for it! Bring it on!" 

Well, I don't have a suit like Calvin's to give you this morning, but I do have word for this morning: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. 

There is a defining phrase in that statement. One that tells us what kind of peace it is that Christ gives us. Listen to it again and see if you can pick it out: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." The defining phrase is: "Not as the world gives." Do you see how that defines God's peace? The world promises peace through the rule of law. Law and order is the only way for a society and a people to experience peace and law and order must be kept by the aggressive use of force. That's the only way that the world can bring about peace.  

But here is how Jesus will give you peace. If you obey his word He and the Father will come to you and make a home with you. Right in your heart. Not by force but by choice. They will abide in your heart bringing peace. The world's peace is peace through strength. The Lord's peace is peace through surrender.
These days the sight of an enormous white ship floating into exotic ports is commonplace. The cruise ship industry is huge - almost as large as the horizontal skyscraper ships that serve it. Like huge hotels turned onto their side, these glowing, white behemoths dot the oceans. They are the twenty-first century's "white whales."   

But before the commercial cruise lines ruled the deep, there were other big white ships that traveled the seas, ships that purposefully put themselves and their crews in harm's way. Naval hospital ships, appropriately designated as "haven class" ships, often offered the closest, most accessible care to wounded troops during World War II and the Korean War. One of those ships was aptly named the "U.S.S. Consolation," a floating hospital capable of caring for over 800 patients and housing a host of medical professionals. These "white whales" offered the best medical treatment possible under hostile, combat conditions. Although hospital ships were painted white and were emblazoned with a red cross to advertise their non-hostile identity, their close proximity to battle zones did not ensure their safety. The business of saving lives is always hazardous duty . . . without hazard pay.   

The U.S.S. Consolation served as a hospital ship from 1944-1955. It offered healing and comfort to the wounded in both World War II and the Korean conflict. The "Consolation" was decommissioned in 1958, but instead of being sold for scrap or made into a floating museum the Consolation was reborn in 1960 when it was turned over to a newly formed civilian service organization - Project Hope. "HOPE" was the acronym for a civilian medical volunteer service organization - ""Health Opportunities for People Everywhere" (today think "Doctors Without Borders"). In short, the "U.S.S. Consolation" got a new coat of white paint and was re-named the "S.S. HOPE" - a name that was painted in huge red letters across her bow. For the next fourteen years that "HOPE" floated across the seas of the world, pulling into ports from Malaysia and Indonesia to South America and the Caribbean, bringing hands-on medical care to whomever needed it, offering medical training for any and all local care-givers, and extending medical education to families to help them keep healthy.  

What a different image from a cruise ship( aka hangover ship) - a hope ship. Instead of a light-blazing, music-blaring, hangover-bringing big white party ship, every time the "S.S. HOPE" pulled into a new port its mission and message spelled out simply four big letters: "H.O.P.E" 

The clear declaration of hope is what 1 Peter's letter is all about. Hope in Christ...
C. S. Lewis on Love 

To love at all is to be venerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin or your selfishness. But in that casket--safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable...The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers...of love is Hell.  

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1960, p.169.
God Surprises the Hopeless  

When Christopher Columbus was sailing to the new world his hired sailors were threatening mutiny. The voyage was long and hard and there was no land in sight for weeks. One day Columbus saw an encouraging sign. Floating on the ocean swells was a small tree branch. The branches' leaves were green, indicating that land could not be far away. The green branch gave the sailors enthusiasm and a renewed hope. Soon after its discovery land was sighted from the sailor in the crow's nest.

When all seems hopeless God has a way of surprising us and being present, even in the loneliest places. It is not God who is absent but we who have ceased to believe in a God who loves us more than we love ourselves. 

Keith Wagner, Who Said Loving Others was Easy?
When Doubt Sets In 

Years ago I read something rather odd: "The reason mountain climbers are tied together is to keep the sane ones from going home." Whoever said that was playing with us a bit, for we know mountain climbers are tied together to keep from getting lost or going over a cliff. But there's another piece of truth here. When things get tough up on the mountain, when fear sets in, many a climber is tempted to say, "This is crazy! I'm going home."  

The life of faith can be like that-doubts set in, despair overwhelms us, and the whole notion of believing in God seems crazy. Jesus knew his disciples would have days like that. So he told them we're tied together like branches on the vine-or like climbers tied to the rope-tied together by the Spirit, to trust in one who is always more than we can understand, to keep us moving ahead on the journey of faith, to encourage us when believing seems absurd. "I will not leave you orphaned," said Jesus. "I am coming to you." 

Barbara K. Lundblad, I Will Not Leave You Orphaned
Always Alongside Us 

A student named Steve Winger from Lubbock, TX was taking a challenging class in Logic. The course and teacher were known for exacting and demanding exams. The final exam was looming, and the professor mercifully told the class that each student would be permitted to bring in a single 8 x 11 ½ inch sheet with as much information as they could put on that one sheet for help during the test. On exam day, each student came to class clutching their precious pieces of paper with as much information as possible. Some students had crammed lines and lines of font so tiny and so numerous onto that single sheet that you had to wonder how they could read it. But Steve walked in with a single blank sheet and a friend who was a senior student and who had an 'A' in logic. Steve bent down and placed that single, blank sheet of paper on the floor next to his desk. His expert friend stood on the paper. 

 The professor noticed the extra body in the room and asked what he was doing. Steve piped up, "You said we could bring in whatever we could fit on a single piece of paper for help on this test, well, this is my help and he can fit on the paper!" He had followed the instructions to the letter and was the only student in that class to score an 'A' since he had his expert friend standing alongside him.   

The Holy Spirit is like that friend, standing alongside us, supporting us, and guiding us.  

Adapted from an unknown source, Staff,
I'm Not Allowed to Cross the Street 

A little boy was riding his tricycle furiously around the block, over and over again. Finally a policeman stopped and asked him why he was going around and around. The boy said that he was running away from home. The policeman asked why he kept going around the block. The boy responded, "Because my mom said that I'm not allowed to cross the street."

The point is clear--obedience will keep you close to those you love.  

Michael Green, Illustrations for Biblical Preaching.
Martin Luther on Love for Christ 

As usual, Martin Luther said it so well: "But, as Christ said earlier, it all depends on whether you feel and find that you love this man [Jesus]. For if you truly believe this, then love will be there, and your heart will be moved to say: 'Christ, my dear Lord, has done so much for me. He has reconciled the Father to me and shed his blood for me. He has fought and defeated my death and given me all his possessions. Should I not require this love? Should I not thank, praise, honor and serve him with my life and my goods? If not, I should be ashamed that I am a human being.'  

"Therefore Christ declares: 'Sincere love for me is part of a true Christian.'" When you believe in Christ, when you live with him, love and good works just naturally flow. They come from living together with Christ; his good influence just rubs off on us.  

Mark Ellingsen, Preparation and Manifestation, CSS Publishing Company
Playing God  

Mee Spousler of the Mount Hope United Methodist Church, in Aston, PA., tells how she was trying to put her three-year-old son to bed for a nap.

When she was unsuccessful, she put him in her bed and laid down with him to encourage him to rest. She fell asleep, but he didn't. When she woke up, she saw him sitting on a chair at the end of the bed, and asked, "Luke, what are you doing?"

"I'm playing God," he replied.
"Playing God?" she asked.
"Yes," he said. "I'm watching over you while you sleep." 

 Children understand more than we do sometimes. God IS watching over us. Jesus gave that promise here in talking about the coming of the Holy Spirit. Not only will God watch over us but through the presence and reminder of the Holy Spirit, we will be reminded of what it means to "Love Jesus and keep his commands." And God will help us to create the environment of love, grace, faith and security that we need for our homes today. Our challenge is to listen to the Holy Spirit and to trust Christ.  

Billy D. Strayhorn, If You Love Me....
Responding to the Spirit, Responding in the Spirit  

When Jimmy Carter was running for President of the United States, one of the more vivid moments in the campaign passed by almost unnoticed. One Sunday morning, candidate Carter had been worshiping at the Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia. When the service was over, he exited the church into the swarm of press encamped on the church's front lawn. Cameras whirring, video lights glaring, microphones thrust forward, the media mavens moved in for interviews, pushing themselves to think of clever questions to ask a presidential candidate on the way out of a Southern Baptist Church -- "Did you like the sermon?" "Did you enjoy the choir this morning?" "Do you plan to remain a Baptist in Washington?" -- on and on the banal questions spewed. 

Suddenly, a reporter, probably in a stroke of luck, shouted out a question that genuinely mattered: "Mr. Carter, suppose when you are President, you get into a situation where the laws of the United States are in conflict with what you understand to be the will of God. Which will you follow, the laws of the state or the commandments of God?" 

Carter stopped, looked up, and blinked into the bright Georgia sun, obviously turning the question over in his mind. Then, perhaps still "in the Spirit on the Lord's Day," perhaps with the Spirit gently whispering the lyrics of the gospel into his ears, he turned toward the reporter and replied: "I would obey the commandments of God." Alert aides, alarmed by this candor, unnerved by their candidate's near-treasonous remark, hurriedly whisked him away from the press and into a waiting car. Carter the politician should have avoided the question, or hewed closely to the law of the land, but Carter the Christian had the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ whispering in his ear, "Do you love me? The world cannot see or know me, but do you love me? Do you keep my commandments?
Fr. Jude Botelho:

Today’s first reading refers to the story of the early Church during the persecution of Christians by Saul, because of which the believers were scattered and Philip set off for Samaria. Samaritans hated the Jews, yet when they heard the gospel they accepted the message and were converted. Because of persecution the gospel was preached to the gentiles. Because Philip believed enough to sacrifice himself for God, many crippled in mind and body were cured and the people received the Holy Spirit in Samaria. Love works miracles among the people who believed and the Spirit becomes a source of power in their midst. The response of the Jerusalem Church at the good news in Samaria is to praise God that his Spirit is given to all people. God’s Spirit knows no boundaries. We too need to rejoice whenever and wherever we see the Spirit at work.

The force within
There is an old fable about a changeling eagle. A tribal who lived in a forest, one day found an egg of an eagle. He took the egg home and hatched it along with the other chicken eggs. This eaglet started growing up with the other chicks. It started eating mud, pecking and hopping here and there like the other chicks. But it never learned to fly like an eagle. One day as it was foraging for food from the ground, it saw an eagle majestically soaring high in the sky. As the eagle was admiring the grandeur of the soaring eagle, the other chicks came and said to the eaglet, “Look, that is the eagle –the king of the birds. You and I are chickens. We cannot fly like the eagle. –Often we lead poor lives without realizing the power inherent in us. We are like that eaglet helplessly admiring the power in others when we ourselves possess that power. Often, we end up in defeat, frustration and failure because we are ignorant of the power God has given us through his Spirit. We can do marvellous things when we associate with God.
John Rose in ‘John’s Sunday Homilies’

The context of today’s Gospel is the human anxiety of the disciples about the absence of Jesus and ultimately about the absence of God caused by his foretelling of his departure from the world. Jesus had no intention of leaving his disciples behind him in a situation where they are left to hope without help. He does not deny the anxiety and distress, but offers a promise of presence and a sense of meaning embedded in sharing God’s life. The power of the Spirit is the rock of Christian hope. Without the Spirit, the followers of Jesus would be thrown back on their own resources which are clearly inadequate. With the Spirit however, the disciples can face the future with a power which is much larger than themselves. In this Gospel we are promised the gift of the Holy Spirit, who will come as our advocate, the Spirit of Truth. By giving us the Spirit as an advocate what does Jesus imply? He wishes us to know that the Spirit, the best gift that God can give us, is the gift of his own presence in our lives. The Spirit will stand besides us, will comfort us when we ask, help us in difficult times, and speak on our behalf when we are in need. Although people with no religious faith comfort one another, our fellowship with the Spirit is deeper and more awesome. His power becomes real only if we let Him work in and through us.

Torch and Bucket
There is a story of a person who saw an angel walking down the street. The angel was carrying a torch in one hand and a bucket of water in the other. “What are you going to do with that torch and bucket?” the person asked. The angel stopped abruptly and said, “With the torch, I’m going to burn down the mansions of heaven, and with the bucket of water, I’m going to put off the fires of hell. Then we’re going to see who really loves God. The angel’s point is that many people obey God’s commandments out of fear of punishment of hell or hope of reward in heaven. They don’t obey him for the reason Jesus gives in today’s gospel. “If you love me,” Jesus says, “you will obey my commandments.”
Mark Link in ‘Sunday Homilies’

Doing what his Father said
More than ninety people conducted an all-night search for Dominic DeCarlo, an eight-year-old boy lost on a snowy mountain slope. Dominic, who had been on a skiing trip with his father, apparently had ridden on a new lift and skied off the run without realizing it. An hour passed, the search party and the boy’s family became more concerned for his health and safety. By dawn they had found no trace of the boy. Two helicopter crews joined the search and within fifteen minutes they spotted ski tracks. A ground team followed the tracks, which changed to small footprints. The footprints led to a tree, where they found the boy at last. “He’s in super shape!” Sergeant Terry Silbaugh, area search and rescue coordinator announced to the anxious family and press. “In fact, he’s in better shape than we are in right now!” Silbaugh explained why the boy did so well despite spending a night in the freezing elements. His father had enough foresight to warn the boy what to do if he became lost, and his son had enough trust to do exactly what the father said. Dominic protected himself from frostbite and hypothermia by snuggling up to the tree and covering himself with branches. As a young child, he would never have thought of doing this on his own. He was simply obeying his wise and loving father.
Luis Palau from ‘Devotions’

“I don’t feel loving, what can I do?”
A man said to a counsellor: “My wife and I just don’t have the same feelings for each other we used to have. I guess I just don’t love her anymore and she doesn’t love me anymore. What can I do?” The counsellor asked, “The feeling isn’t there anymore?” “That’s right.” He affirmed. “And we have three children we are really concerned about. What do you suggest?” “Love her,” the counsellor replied. “I told you the feeling just isn’t there anymore.” “Love her.” “You don’t understand. The feeling of love just isn’t there.” “Then love her. If the feeling isn’t there, that’s a good reason to love her.” “But how do you love when you don’t love?” “My friend, love is a verb, action. Love, the feeling – is the fruit of love, the verb. So love her. Serve her. Sacrifice. Listen to her. Empathize. Appreciate. Affirm her. Are you willing to do that?” -To quote Dostoevsky, love is “as hard as hell.” If we love, we obey the commands and wishes of our beloved. This applies to our relations with other people and with us and God. Though reasonable and for our betterment, that sometimes goes against our grain.
Harold Buetow in ‘God Still Speaks: Listen!’

Believing in the Power
On the banks of a river lived a hermit. Over thirty years he had been doing ‘Sadhana’ to walk on water. He was a great devotee of Lord Krishna. He sustained his life only on cow’s milk which was supplied by an eleven-year old girl, living on the other bank of the river. One day her mother said to her, “There are heavy clouds and there is going to be a downpour and the river will be flooded. Tell the hermit that you won’t come tomorrow.” The girl did so. The hermit said to the girl. “Don’t worry about the flood. I will teach you a ‘mantra’ and you will be able to walk on the water. Close your eyes and repeat ‘Krishna, Krishna, Krishna’ and you can comfortably walk on water.” As expected the rain came in torrents and the river was in spate. The girl got ready to take milk to the hermit. The mother refused. But the girl told her mother that the hermit had given her a ‘mantra’ to walk on water. Believing her, the mother allowed her to go. The girl went to the river, closed her eyes, repeated ‘Krishna, Krishna, Krishna,’ and walked on the water. The hermit was looking on in wonder. Repeating the ‘mantra’ the girl returned home walking on water. The hermit thought to himself. “How wonderful, I enabled that girl to walk on water. I have the power. Now let me try for myself.” Confidently, he stepped on the water and drowned forthwith. –The young girl had tremendous faith in the mantra given by the hermit, but not the hermit himself. It is implicit faith that can do wonders in this world.
G. Francis Xavier in ‘The World’s best Inspiring Stories’

No orphans in the reign of God
Margaret Fishback, a young woman, who searched for direction at the crossroads of her life, composed a beautiful poem with the title “Footprints”. “Footprints” has appeared on plaques, and cards, calendars and posters, treasured by millions all over the world. “One night I had a dream – I dreamed of walking along the beach with the Lord and across the sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene I noticed two sets of footprints, one belonged to me and the other belonged to the Lord. When the last scene of my life flashed before me I looked back, I looked at the footprints in the sand. I noticed that many times along the path of life, there was only one set of footprints. I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times of my life. This really bothered me and I questioned the Lord about it. “Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you would walk with me all the way, but I have noticed that during the most troublesome times of my life there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why in times when I needed you most, you should leave me.” The Lord replies, “My precious little child, I love you and I would never leave you during your times of trial and suffering. When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.” – The good news given to us today is that while the journey of life will not always be easy, it need not be travelled alone.
John Pichappilly in ‘The Table of the Word’