Acts of the Apostles 8: 5-8, 14-17 + Psalm 66 + 1 Peter 3: 15-18 + John 14: 15-21
May 14, 2023 at St William Church in Naples, FL
We are still at the table of the Last Supper with these verses of John’s Gospel, and Jesus is explaining that soon his followers will not know him in the flesh as they had. A hard and painful transition lies ahead. They don’t want to let go of what they have, much less face what is coming. He promises he will not leave them as orphans. Like children whose parents are taken away forever, they would question their identity and how they would survive without him. Yet, the promise is made, a promise that leads them to experience that while he will not be with them, he will dwell within them.
With that promise, we are being teased by John’s Gospel today, teased and drawn into a deep and profound mystery. On the surface, the words sound almost like a riddle as he says: “On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” There is something profoundly personal about this that challenges any idea of a god that is remote, distant, foreign, or frightening. A transcendent God becomes a personal God.
There is something intimate here, and the only way we can begin to understand and articulate this intimacy is through the experience of real, true, human love. If we take the experience of being loved and of loving in return, we are at the threshold of realizing this promise that the God who is in Jesus Christ will also be found within us. This is way more than affection. It is a relationship that changes our identity, a relationship that changes how we think, feel, and look at all creation and at one another. Like the true and sacramental love of a husband and wife, of parents for their children, there is nothing that can separate them, not even death. That loved one is deep within us present in all our waking hours bringing peace and the blessed assurance that we are acceptable and we are loved unconditionally.
That love is the promise made to us all as Jesus shared that final meal with his disciples. That love is why we keep the commandments, not because we fear punishment, not because we think it will get us points or earn our place in the presence of God, but because we love God and fulfilling the will of God is all we want to do. To whatever extent we have conformed ourselves to Jesus Christ, to whatever extent we have shaped our lives to be like his, we shall share his experience of union with the Father through union with him. This is more than saying that God is the source of all life or that God is first in our life. This is to believe that to love all others is to love our creator. This is what it means to be in Christ, because Christ loved everyone, and in so doing, he showed us how to love God and draw us deeply into everlasting divine life. So, no one is alone if we are there for them. We are never alone as long as we come again and again to this table and confirm this covenant of love and service God has made with us.