May 26, 2019
Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year C
Today’s Gospel passage (John 14:23-29) is part of the long speech that Jesus makes to His disciples during the last supper in the Cenacle, after the gesture of the washing of feet.
It is a speech of greeting, in which Jesus accompanies the disturbance that the disciples feel at the announcement of His imminent departure with words that tell the meaning of what is happening, that say the purpose of the life that the Lord is about to give.
In this discourse, like a refrain, some phrases come back, some intuitions of Jesus, words that are the heart of a disciple’s life.
I want to highlight two aspects.
The first is that it is true; Jesus is about to leave His own. But this departure opens the possibility of His return, a new return, much richer and more beautiful than the reality that the disciples have learned to live with Him in His earthly days.
Jesus says this several times in this chapter 14: He is about to leave and return to the Father, bringing with Him our humanity. For this humanity, a home is prepared where everyone can find a place.
Jesus leaves, therefore, but to be able to come again (Jn 14:3). Jesus will not return alone, but with the Father and the Spirit: “we will come to him” (Jn 14:23), Jesus says, speaking of himself and the Father. And the Father will send the Spirit (Jn 14:26), which will be the very life of God in us.
In short, the coming of Christ after Easter brings something new. It is not a simple matter of going back to things as before, as if nothing changed. The evangelist John tells us that with the new coming of Christ our life is no longer our own, but it is a life inhabited by the life of God, which is essentially a relationship and communion of Love between the persons of the Trinity.
Jesus comes to live in our real home, or the Love of the Father. The work of salvation, begun at Easter is accomplished with this coming.
The second aspect is that all this is linked to a conditional: today’s passage starts with an “if.” “If anyone loves me …” (Jn 14:23).
The communion of life with God is possible only if we live in the house that has been prepared for us, or in Love, in the acceptance of the Love that God has for us, and that the events of Easter have fully revealed.
If you live by this acceptance, by this Love, then the fruit is obedience: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word” (Jn 14:23).
Obedience to the word of Jesus is the fruit of new life, but it is also its litmus test: for Jesus, Love is not a simple sentiment, but a life of listening and obedience.
He was the first to experience it towards the Father, seeking nothing but doing His Will: John’s Gospel is studded with words in which Jesus says this obedience to the Father (Jn 4:34; 5:30; 8:28-29).
Life itself, then, taught Him obedience, placed Him in the dramatic condition, at Gethsemane, to choose not His will but that of the Father.
Jesus trusted and experienced that this obedience is effectively the way that leads to life, which is the only way to remain in Love. So, before returning to the Father, He shows this way to His own.
He knows that they will not have to do everything on their own: it is the Spirit that forms the life of children in us, the obedient life. He will teach everything and remind His disciples of His words so that they may remain in obedience (Jn 14:26).
And finally, He says that those who live all this will not lack peace (“I leave you peace, I give you my peace. I do not give it to you as the world gives it”. Jn 14:27). Peace is the condition of those who have found their way, they know where they are going, and know they are not alone on the road. Jesus leaves this peace, which is His and that only He can give.
We will never find considerations or speeches on peace in the Gospels. It is not an abstraction, nor the result of human initiatives or the fruit of a moral or social attitude (“I do not give to you as the world gives.” 27). In the Gospel, peace comes from the experience of living in the Love of Christ. Later, in the same discourse, Jesus will add: “Remain in my love” (15:9).
It is not an indication to not deal with peace, but an invitation to build it starting from the experience of Easter, where everything, including our betrayals, is welcomed in the heart of the Love that saves.