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Pleading the Case

Sixth Sunday of Easter
Cycle A

First Reading: Acts 8:5-8, 14-17
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20
Second Reading: 1 Pt 3:15-18
Gospel: Jn 14:15-21

Some folks have a rather harsh image of God.  They envision a distant God, ruling over everything and everyone from an on-high vantage point.  This God is a ruler and a tester,  a judge or an inquisitor, expecting us to live up to a set of rules and regulations or requiring us to pass the litmus test,  which weighs our accomplishments against our transgressions.    In this perception, Jesus’ role  was crucial:  to go before God and soften His anger over our failures.  Jesus is our Advocate before a fearsome God.   He is our defense attorney and we need  him to get us on the straight and narrow path - and He has to die to appease an angry God.   The Father and the Son play out a sort of eternal scenario of “Law and Order,” persuading us to change our lives and reform our ways.   And if we don’t, we are prosecuted to the full extent of the Law.

In this perspective, the Advocate is seen as our defense attorney before the throne of God.  We simply need to look around to our brothers and sisters in Christ and we will find that in the way some speak about God and how they pray - a lot of people in our communities still hold these notions of God.   But another perspective is necessary, one that fulfills the hope that Jesus gives us in the Gospel, especially in this last discourse section in John’s Gospel.  Here he promises to take us to a place of intimate union with God.
 
In reality, we need the Advocate, not to argue our case to God, but to argue God’s case to us.  The Advocate Jesus sends his followers intercedes on God’s behalf and reminds us of God’s love for us.  This Advocate – this Spirit - helps us live Jesus’ way of love for others.  This Advocate persuades us and enables us to do what Jesus tells his disciples:  we are asked to love as he loved, to serve others as He served.  Such love will require an enormous amount of courage and a persevering commitment.

Jesus freed His disciples from the tyranny of law.  He did this not by abolishing or changing the law, but by dethroning it from its place of primacy, revitalizing it and making it subordinate to love and compassion – to the law of the Spirit.  When our lives are governed not by a network of laws by the fire of the Spirit that burns within us, then the limitless power of the Spirit is unleashed with incredible force.

Jesus spoke of the life of grace in terms of indwelling our hearts by His own Spirit.  And the Spirit impels us to live as beloved of God.  He tells us “if you love me, you will keep my commandments.  My father will love you and we will come to you and make our home within you.”  The community formed by Jesus was one empowered by the Spirit and was the community where the language of love and compassion was not only spoken but lived.

In entering human history, Jesus shattered all previous conceptions of who God is and what man is meant to be.   And He shattered all of our preconceived images of God as well.    He vibrates to the hope and fear, the celebrations and desolations of each of us.  He is the Incarnation of the compassion of the Father.  Jesus reveals a God who is not indifferent – One who continues to live and breathe within us.

In almost every verse of today’s Gospel passage Jesus assures us that we will not be left on our own – that He will never abandon us.    If we can believe this, then despite the obstacles that we face in life, despite the walls that we may build around ourselves for safety and for protection, and despite the doors that we may lock and hide behind – suddenly, without our even knowing, the Spirit will be present among us, will breathe on us and will bring us His peace.



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