Sunday, May 5, 2013

Remember: Jesus Sent us an Advocate!

6th Sunday of Easter

Gospel John 14:23-29

Jesus said to 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. 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, whom the Father will send in my name, 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.”

Today's selection from John's Gospel, continues the farewell discourse of Jesus. Ideally situated in the Church calendar to anticipate the coming feasts of Ascension and Pentecost, this gospel tells both of Jesus' immanent departure and his promise to send the Holy Spirit,-who will be an Advocate or Paraclete the Latin for 'Helper'. The Holy Spirit will provide for the disciples all those things which Jesus did for them in his years with them (teaching, leadership, assurance, etc.) His upcoming departure then, is not abandonment, but rather a new, and even stronger indwelling Presence, which will yield the gift of peace.

We see just how effective this new presence of the Holy Spirit is in the community as a whole, when we hear in the first reading, about the first crisis that the early Church faced. As we know, Paul preached the Good News to the Gentiles and by baptizing them without requiring them to observe the Law of Moses, especially that of ritual circumcision, he was able to win over many converts. So when some traditional Jewish Christians from Jerusalem visited Antioch and compelled the Gentiles to follow the whole Mosaic Law, Paul opposed it vigorously, arguing that salvation is won by faith in Christ, not by the works of the Law. There was so much dissension that Paul and Barnabas had to go on a peace-mission to Jerusalem to meet with the church there to hash it all out. This gathering was later called the Council of Jerusalem, the first of the Church's Councils. After intense debate, it was decided that the Gentile converts were obligated to observe only those parts of the Law that would facilitate social contact with the Jewish Christians. Luke makes it clear that the decision to accept the Gentiles was not handed down from some 'high authority' or derived from abstract principles, but rather arrived at through a divine-human collaboration involving 'the whole Jerusalem church' along with the Holy Spirit.

Jesus said to his disciples, " Anyone who loves Me will be true to my word, and the One who sent Me will love them; and We will come to them and there We will make our home with them." This most certainly indicates that the gift of the Spirit is given to each of us individually, but a little later on when Jesus says:"the One who sent me will send the Holy Spirit, who will instruct you in everything", the "you" is plural, meaning, also, that the Holy Spirit is given to the community of believers, the whole church. The Spirit is God's gift of wisdom and grace, then, to each of us and to all of us together (what we would call today, the sensus fidelium. The early church's willingness to surrender in community, to prayer and to the Holy Spirit challenges us (or shall I say, indicts us ?) in that 2,000 years later, so many Christian faiths are still divided and so parochial. We still have such a long way to go to in "real"-izing-the vision in Revelation of a holy city wherein all people from the four corners of the earth universally adore the One and Only God.

While we may wonder if we will destroy ourselves while trying, if we call ourselves Christian we must embrace the principle of and live the words of the song which say "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me"....There are 5 strategies, each beginning with a letter in the word "P.E.A.C.E.", if diligently practiced daily and in every 'un-peaceful' situation by every Christian would de facto lead to a more peace-filled world: PRAYER: Mother Teresa, a contemporary model of the very way to live as Christ did and recognized even by the secular world as a most peace-filled person, the winner of the international Noble Peace prize, taught about the necessity of prayer as the first step toward peace within ourselves and for the world. "When you pray, you will have faith. When you have faith, you will love. When you love, you will hear the call to serve. And when you serve, you will have peace."

And what should we pray for ? the situations that frighten us for sure, but mostly for the people who have hurt us and betrayed us, that Good will be the end result.

 ENLIGHTENMENT: Thomas Merton, in his Seeds of Destruction, wrote in 1961 about the necessity of freeing ourselves from the exorbitant and tyrannical demands of a society that is violent, because it is essentially greedy, lustful and cruel and he urged us before it became too late, to recognize the impossibility of being a peaceful people if we submit passively to the influences of a society maddened by over-stimulation, over-consumption, voyeurism and speed. Nineteen hundred years before that, St Paul urged the Philippians in a similar vane--"Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things....and the God of peace will be with you.[Phil. 4:8-9]. Our news is a constant repetitious bombardment of crisis, cruelty, outrageousness, banality and mayhem, but if we concentrate on filling our minds with what is inspirational (which we can find without looking too hard), we will be subconsciously motivated to emulate the noble. E.g., this week's story about Carmen Tarleton has inspired thousands to forgive the hurt in their lives (6 yrs ago she suffered chemical burns over 80% of her body when her estranged husband doused her with lye...despite years of excruciating pain, multiples surgeries, permanent disfigurement and blindness, she said, "There is a lot to learn and take from horrific events that happen.. I want others to know that they need not give up when tragedy strikes, but instead that they can make a choice to find the good and allow that to help them heal." There are endless ways to 'light-en' our hearts and fill our spirits with the good and the healing--nature, music, art, literature (two books recently recommended to me -- "Proof of Heaven" and "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.")

APPRECIATION: "Let Christ's peace reign in your hearts...Dedicate yourselves to thankfulness."[Col.3:15]. "If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is 'Thank You', that would suffice." [Meister Eckhart] Most importantly, we will need to be grateful for the crosses and contradictions, the disillusionments and disagreements, the setbacks and the struggles, the sufferings and our dying, all of which enable us to grow back into God.

CHARITY: Goldie Hawn, in an interview for Mothers' Day, said that "we are only as happy as our least happy child." I immediately realized that God is only as happy as the least happy person on what a task we have !! The prayer attributed to St Francis of Assisi gives us some helpful suggestions..."Lord make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy."

ENDURANCE: "I have said this, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” [John 16:33] It has been said that "It is easier to fight for one's principles than to live up to them " [Alfred Adler] and that certainly goes for Christianity--it's a lot easier to fight for it than to live it. But what the world desperately needs is less people fighting for Christianity and more people living it. Then and only then, might we actually have a chance at "world peace".

Written by Rev. Mary Wagner

St. Valentine Faith Community
Mass: 10AM Every Sunday
2301 E Sunset Road
Suite 18
Las Vegas, NV 89119
702-523-8963 Rev Sue Provost, Pastor

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)

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