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6th Sunday of Easter

Lectio Divina

6th Sunday of Easter

14th May 2023

Lectio Divina

The Tax Collectors Office

Pietro Brueghel the Younger

1564 – 1638



Reflection on the painting

The start of our reading packs a punch: ‘If you love me, you will

keep my commandments’. Jesus makes the point that love and

obedience (to God’s commandments) go hand in hand. They are

not contradictory. Love and obedience are two sides of the same

coin. Love and obedience are two dimensions of the same thing.

In today’s society we see law and love being almost opposites.

In fact, it is also a temptation we have when reading the Gospels

that we simply categorise the Pharisees as being the ones strictly

obeying the laws, but not loving; and we see Jesus as being all

pro-love and anti-law. That is a wrong way to look at Jesus. Peter

Kreeft sums it up well: ‘Jesus was anti-legalism, but not anti-law’.

That brings us to the essence of that first verse of today’s

reading, that love is not first of all some fluffy feeling but it is an

active part of our will. Love is a choice! That is why Jesus

commands us to love, because he wants us to will it.

And to make it easier for us to love, Jesus promises us that the

Holy Spirit will help us. The Holy Spirit is the advocate. A very

narrow interpretation of what an advocate is in a legal framework

is portrayed in this painting by Pieter Breughel the Younger. This

composition proved already so popular in Breughel’s time that no

fewer than twenty versions were produced in the artist’s

workshop. We see a village advocate/attorney’s office, with

clients lined up to enlist his services. Humbly the villagers

approach the lawyer’s desk, offering up what they can in terms

of payment: grapes, eggs, poultry… all used in trade for

assistance in their legal matters.

The Holy Spirit is of course much more than merely a defender

of his clients. But the parallel holds that the Holy Spirit walks

alongside us to help us and to look out for us. The role of the Holy

Spirit is all-encompassing: as our comforter, counsellor, helper,

guide, advocate, intercessor, etc… there to help us to love more.

Lectio

John 14: 15-21

The Promise of the Holy Spirit

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And

I will ask the Father, and he will give you another

Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of

truth, whom the world cannot receive because it neither

sees him nor knows him. You know him because he

abides with you, and he will be in you. “I will not leave

you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the

world will no longer see me, but you will see me;

because I live, you also will live. On that day you will

know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in

you. They who have my commandments and keep them

are those who love me, and those who love me will be

loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal

myself to them.”

Meditatio

THE PROMISED HELPER

This passage picks up where last week’s reading left off.

Jesus continues to deliver his Farewell Discourse, preparing

his disciples for his departure and their receipt of the Holy

Spirit.

To John, there is only one test of love, and it is obedience.

It was by his obedience that Jesus showed his love of God:

and it is by our obedience that we must show our love of

Jesus. The New Testament scholar C.K, Barrett says: ‘John

never allowed love to devolve into a sentiment or emotion.

Its expression is always moral and is revealed in obedience.

To Jesus, real love is not an easy thing. It is shown only in

true obedience.

But Jesus does not leave us to struggle with the Christian

life alone. He would send us another Helper. The Greek

word is parakletos, which is really untranslatable. The

Authorised Version renders it Comforter, which, although

hallowed by time and usage, is not a good translation.

Moffatt translates it as Helper. It is only when we examine

this word parakletos in detail that we catch something of the

riches of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. It really means

someone who is called In; but it is the reason why the

person is called in which gives the word its distinctive

associations. The Greeks used the word in a wide variety of

ways. A parakletos might be a person called in to give

witness in a law court in someone’s favour, or an advocate

called in to plead the cause of someone under a charge

which would issue in a serious penalty; an expert called in

to give advice in some difficult situation, or a person called

in when for example, a company of soldiers were depressed

and dispirited to put new courage into their minds and

hearts. Always a parakletos is someone called in to help in

time of trouble or need. Comforter was once a perfectly

good translation. It actually goes back to John Wycliff, the

first person to use it in his translation made in the fourteenth

century. But in his day it mean much more than it means

now. The word comes from the Latin fortis, which means

brave; and a comforter was someone who enabled some

dispirited creature to be brave. Nowadays comfort has to do

almost solely with sorry; and a comforter is someone who

sympathizes with us when we are sad. Beyond a doubt the

Holy Spirit does that, but to limit his work to that function is

sadly to belittle him. We often talk of being able to cope with

things. This is precisely the work of the Holy Spirit. He takes

away our inadequacies and enables us to cope with life.

The Holy Spirit substitutes victorious for defeated living.

Jesus went on to say that the world cannot recognise the

Spirit. By the world is meant that section of the human race

that lives as if there was no God. The point of Jesus’ saying

is: we can see only what we are fitted to see. An astronomer

will see far more in the sky than an ordinary person.

Someone who knows about art will see far more in a picture

than someone who is quite ignorant of art. A person who

has eliminated God never listens for him; and we cannot

receive the Holy Spirit unless we wait in expectation and in

prayer for him to come to us.

Jesus was indeed God WITH us, but he told his disciples of

an even more staggering truth, that the time was fast

approaching when the Holy Spirit would be sent: God

WITHIN us. The limited reach of the Lord Jesus as a Person

in His human body extended only to those that were

physically alongside Him, but the unlimited reach of the Holy

Spirit as a Person, is such that no matter where we go, or

what we do, God the Holy Spirit dwells within. The Lord did

a work FOR us but since the Cross and Resurrection it is

the Holy Spirit of Truth who works WITHIN us.

Jesus explained to these panic-stricken disciples what His

departure meant. He had been as God to them. In Him God

had touched the very springs of their life and entered into

their souls. His going did not mean that God would forsake

them. If He went, they would not be left desolate; God would

send them another Advocate, another Helper, who would be

to them all that Jesus Himself had been and more; who

would bring them just the same sense of God’s nearness

and presence; who would inspire and help them just as

effectively as Jesus Himself had done.

The Holy Spirit gate crashes no one’s heart; he waits to be

received. So, when we think of the wonderful things which

the Holy spirit can do, surely we will set apart sometime

amid the bustle and the rush of live to wait in silence for him

coming.

Oratio

Like these disciples, we sometimes feel lost and

bewildered, Longing for Your presence and guidance on

our journey, Open our eyes, Lord, to recognize You in our

midst. Fill us with a burning desire to know You more, As

we engage in this time of prayer and reflection, May Your

Word come alive in us, bringing transformation. Empower

us, O Lord, to share the Good News, With hearts full of joy

and faith, just like the disciples, And may our lives be a

testimony to Your redeeming love. Amen

Contemplatio

• Read the passage carefully, two or three times. Does

anything stand out? Perhaps I am struck by Jesus’

desire that I should believe in him. I am invited to look

at the depth or perhaps the lack of depth of my own

faith in Jesus. Whether my faith is strong or weak, I

discuss it honestly with Jesus now.

• Or perhaps I notice that Jesus’ desire is that I should

be with him where he is. How does it make me feel to

hear those words? Again, I talk to Jesus about my

feelings, and then I sit in silence for a while to listen

to him.

• Jesus promises to send us ‘the Advocate’, ‘the

Counsellor’. these words suggest some sort of legal

figure but really Jesus is telling us that we will be

accompanied by his life-giving, enabling and affirming

Spirit. Where do you need this Spirit in your day?

Where do you ask for the Spirit? Where do you

recognise the Spirit’s presence?

• Lord, you are inviting me, choosing me, to be your

intimate friend, to go out in your name and to make

an impact on this precious world, and bear lasting

fruit

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