Sixth Sunday of Easter (B) | Fr John Farrell recalls that Jesus has consecrated and co-missioned us as Christian disciples.
It is with these telling words that Pope Francis begins his Apostolic Exhortation ‘The Joy of the Gospel’:
“Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt and the desire to do good fades.”
In today’s gospel, prayerfully received, the voice of Jesus is heard, the joy of his quiet love is experienced and the desire to do good enflamed.
Nowhere else in the scriptures is the voice of our Risen Lord received in the heart of the Christian disciple with such immediacy and intimacy as in these five chapters of the Last Supper Discourse in St John’s gospel. Our Master’s voice comes addressed to each unique disciple across the centuries and across the continents.
He is speaking in the threatened calm of the Upper Room in his last hours of freedom. When he finishes speaking he will descend down to the Garden of Gethsemane and his Passion will begin. Jesus makes it explicitly clear that he is addressing, and consecrating into his sacrifice of the next day, Good Friday, not just those disciples in the room but all those who will come to be disciples through them. You and I. He is consecrating and commissioning – co-missioning – us into the one mission he has received from the Father. Elsewhere he will say: “As the Father sent me, so I send you”. Here he says: “As the Father has loved me so I have loved you. Remain/abide in my love”. This is an abiding presence, not transitory or changing but the gift of a permanent relationship within the Divine life of the Holy Trinity. Within this shared life he now reveals: “I shall not call you servants anymore for a servant does not know his master’s business; I call you friends because I have made known to you everything I have learnt from my Father”.
Nothing is closer to divinity than to be a fellow worker with God. Nothing closer to God than to imitate the divine self-giving. “Love one another as I have loved you. A man can have no greater love then to lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you – love one another.”
This “desire to do good”, which Pope Francis speaks about above, is not burdensome but joyful. It springs from the graced experience of the quiet joy of his love for each one of us. In times of uncertainty, confusion and insecurity we hear the Master’s voice in our hearts: “I have chosen you “. “You did not choose me, no I chose you”.
Jesus is speaking to us from the eve of his Passion. And he warns us that the way of discipleship is costly: “In the world you will have trouble”. But in all the dangers and difficulties of our Christian lives it is in the flow of his grace, from the Holy Vine of the Crucified Christ, of whom we are branches, that we can bear fruit and fruit that will abide. “I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete.”
Peter was one of those disciples addressed by Christ in the Upper Room. Peter who was to deny him. Peter to whom he appeared after his Resurrection. Peter who, filled with the Holy Spirit of the Risen Lord, proclaimed the New Creation at Pentecost in Jerusalem. The same Peter is active in our first reading, responding to the Spirit’s creation of a new humanity in Christ which will include all nations. What Peter and his companions and Cornelius and his friends experience is a “Pentecost for the Gentiles”.
The Pentecostal mystery which we are anticipating throughout Eastertide is working powerfully and gracefully in the Church and in the world as it was in St Peter’s day. There is a peace and a joy that the world cannot give. Christian peace and joy are fruits of the Holy Spirit. Their source is in the depth of the Trinity and their outreach to the whole world and all humanity in it joys and its hopes, is sorrows and grief, its sinfulness and its call to holiness.
Photograph by Fr Lawrence Lew OP of a window in St Dominic’s church, San Francisco.