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6th Sunday of Easter
6th Sunday of Easter
Something the Lord spoke of last week and which he speaks of again in today's Gospel is this truth that at its heart, being a Catholic is not reducible to being like Jesus or following his example, or being a good person. At its heart it is a profound union with God through our union with Christ. "On that day you will understand that I am in my Father and you in Me and I in you".
When, after his death and resurrection Jesus ascends into heaven - he takes with him his human nature, his human body, his human soul, and they are inseparably united to him, the Son of God, the 2nd person of the Blessed Trinity. A human nature like ours is at the heart of the divine life.
So many times we have heard over the Easter weeks Jesus saying that the Father gives the Son everything and all the Son has he gives to us. Now as Jesus begins to speak of the Holy Spirit we realise the true wonder of this giving. The gift of the Spirit is the gift at the heart of God. It is what the Father gives and the Son receives. We are able to receive this gift because through his death resurrection and ascension Jesus has re-created human nature, a human nature he shares, a human nature which at the heart of the Trinity shares in the gifts which the Father pours out on the Son.
It is the gift of the Spirit, and our acceptance of this gift which enables us to love God and be loved by God, to be in Christ with Christ in us. The gift and acceptance are seen most clearly in the Sacraments. In particular in the Eucharist, Holy Mass. This is what Jesus says at the end of today's Gospel. "Anybody 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."
Living as diciples
The commandments are given at the last supper, the first Mass. "Love one another as I have loved you" (the way we behave in the world), and "do this in memory of me" (the celebration of the sacraments above all Holy Mass). Notice there are two. Not just love one another and it doesn't matter if you don't go to Mass. Not go to mass and behave how you want. But love one another and do this in memory of me.
It's difficult to do both. That's because at the heart of this is a gift of love. And love both in its giving and receiving involves sacrifice, it involves leaving yourself and what you want and turning your heart and mind to the needs of the other. I am often tempted to say that the real reason most Catholics lapse is because of laziness. They work out lots of good reasons why they have lapsed the more intellectual Catholics by listening to radio 4 or reading the guardian the less intellectual by dwelling on a long dead priest who upset them once in a sermon a hundred years ago but the real reason is they can't be bothered to get out of bed. In fact it is a bit deeper. It is the challenge of the sacrifice required by love that is so frightening and the courage we need to get up after each of our frequent falls, to say sorry, to learn and to press on, to renew the battle.
But the gift of love, precisely because it is the gift of love gives us what we need, if only we will let it. If only we will try to keep the commandments, to love as he loves and to do this memory of him. You cannot adequately put the gift of love, which is God the Holy Spirit into words, but you can try. Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, knowledge, Piety, Courage, Fear of the Lord. We ask for a renewal of these gifts as we approach Pentecost.