A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday Liturgy
BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (# 23)
6th Sunday of Easter, Year A – May 1, 2005
“Another Advocate With You”
Acts 8:5-8, 14-17 // I Pet 3:15-18 // Jn 14:15-21
I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS
I was setting the table in the community refectory after breakfast when the intercom rang. When I answered it, I heard the excited voice of Sr. Mary Joanne urging me, “Come over quickly! We have a Pope!” I left everything and rushed to the T.V. room to participate in the ecstatic moment of the announcement and presentation of the new Pope to the world. There was electricity and joyful thrill, both in the transmitted scenario at St. Peter’s Square and in the room where we were. When the name of Cardinal Ratzinger was announced, however, I had mixed feeling about it and lost my fervent excitement. I was deeply disappointed that my favorite papabile did not become a Pope. On the following day though, something wonderful happened to me. In the Mass of thanksgiving celebrated Tuesday morning in our chapel for the new Pope, when the Priest was solemnly praying for “Benedict, our Pope” and was mentioning his name for the first time in the Eucharistic Prayer, a special light came to me. Indeed, an instantaneous warm feeling of reverential and filial affection for “Pope Benedict” swept over me. In a mysterious way, I felt he was no longer “Josef Ratzinger”, the dreaded conservative theologian, but today’s “Holy Father” and God-given pastor of the universal Church. Consecrated by God as a humble instrument, Pope Benedict will surely collaborate with the Holy Spirit in his vital role as “another Advocate with us”. Moreover, as our friend Rudy had remarked, with the gift of this new Pontiff, we are no longer “orphans”.
In the context of the Easter season of the Church, this Sunday’s Gospel reading (Jn 14:15-21) prepares us for the forthcoming feast of the Lord’s Ascension and the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the community of believers, destined for a vibrant saving mission in the world. God’s love impelled Jesus to promise his disciples: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Paraclete (Advocate) to be with you always, the Spirit of truth” (Jn 14:16).
The Dominican scholar, Gerald Vann comments:” The word paracletos means first of all a legal assistant, an advocate, a defending counsel; but it also means he who speaks out prophetically, proclaiming, exhorting, enlightening; and this leads to a third meaning, one who consoles, when the message proclaimed is the message of salvation, of hope and of joy. In the first epistle of John (cf. I Jn 2:1-2), our Lord is referred to as a paraclete or advocate who will plead our cause; and this is implicitly affirmed by Christ himself when he tells his disciples he will send them another paraclete to befriend and defend them. But there is an essential difference between the mode of activity of the Spirit and that of the incarnate Word: the mission of the Spirit is the direct result of the mission of the Son: the lifting up of the Son in death and glory brings about the coming down of the Pentecostal wind and fire.”
The Holy Spirit promised by Jesus has a vital role to play in the life of the Church. The liturgical scholar, Adrian Nocent remarks: “What will his role be? It will be to make ever more fully known the mysteries of Christ, that is, the meaning of his life and words and actions. But at the same time, the Spirit of truth will give Christians the strength to live in a world that does not understand them or see what they see. For, as Jesus points out emphatically, only those who believe and lovingly obey the commandments can receive, see, and know this Spirit.”
The vital role of the Holy Spirit in assimilating the love-knowledge of God is underlined by G. Vann: “The Spirit will not teach men what they have never been taught before: he will teach them what they have been taught before but have failed to assimilate, so fully as to be possessed by the truth in mind and heart alike. It is the hearts of men that the Spirit instructs; and instructs not by an external voice but by his indwelling presence, by being for them precisely the breath of life. This knowledge, then, is love-knowledge: not a cold, academic apprehension of truth, but an assimilation, an affinity, a living and loving union with the truth who is also goodness and beauty and light and life and love.”
The coming of the Spirit in our lives necessitates profound sensitivity and total receptivity to his life-giving presence, actions and inspirations. According to Harold Buetow: “All spiritual life, all holiness comes from the Father through Jesus by the action of the Holy Spirit. From time to time, if we have the sensitivity to perceive it, we are aware of what is happening as we truly share the Spirit with one another. The Spirit is present in our common kindness, loving concern for one another, and bursts of inspiration. Sometimes, though, we are fearful of those touching experiences, not knowing how to handle the emotion that surrounds them. In other words, we sometimes give the Spirit a difficult time breaking through. But the Spirit’s coming will happen whenever we love God enough to keep his commands.”
The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 3, raise an important question: “Fidelity to the Lord’s commands flows from and expresses the love one has for him. As Jesus himself says, it is the decisive criterion – perhaps the only reliable one – that designates those who truly love him. To inscribe it deeply in the disciples’ memory and heart, Jesus repeats it six times, like a refrain. But what commands is he talking about?”
The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 3 also provide an incisive insight to this question by asserting that the person of Jesus is true Rule of Life. They explicate: “During the course of his preaching, Jesus often did say: “Do this”, “Act thus”, “Do not do this”, and “Do not behave in this manner”. But a compilation of all such sayings cannot provide a list of prescriptions that are sufficient for one to know one’s obligations. Such a reading of the Gospels would be not only reductive: it would indicate a misunderstanding of both spirit and letter. Rather, the Gospels proclaim that Jesus himself is his disciples’ rule of life, “the way and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6) … What other bond can we have with him than that of love, the strongest and most intimate bond on earth and in heaven? And how could we fail to keep his commands? They are the footsteps his passage has left on the earth, given so that his friends may come with him to the Father who waits at the end of the road.”
Indeed, we - the resurrection people - are called to witness in today’s fragmented world what it means to be animated, strengthened and consoled by the Holy Spirit, the “other Advocate” and the Risen Lord’s Easter gift to the Church. We are challenged to testify in the misery and anguish of the modern society how life-giving and restoring is the person of the glorified Jesus Christ – the true Rule of Life and the author of the great commands of fraternal service and love.
Finally, St. Bernard describes poetically the transforming presence of the Holy Spirit in his life: “You will ask me how I could know his presence. Because he is living and active: scarcely had he entered me than he awakened my slumbering soul. My heart was as hard as a rock and stricken; he shook it, softened it, and wounded it. He is who uproots, builds up, plants, waters the dry earth … I have perceived something of his beauty; finally, contemplating the wonder of his greatness in all this has left me speechless.”
II. POINTS FOR THE EXAMINATION OF THE HEART
A. How does the following exhortation of Jesus impact us personally: “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 always, the Spirit of truth …” (Jn 14:15-16)?
B. How receptive are we to the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit in our lives? In our fragile lives affected by broken relationships, shattered dreams, intense disappointments, and tortured guilt, do we trust in the role of the Holy Spirit as Advocate and Consoler?
C. Strengthened and animated by the Holy Spirit for the great work of Christian witnessing in the face of a contrary world, are we – his resurrection people - ready to protest our love for Jesus and promote the quality of life that he lived on this earth?
III. PRAYING WITH THE WORD
Leader: Loving Father,
at the Last Supper,
your Son Jesus, our first Paraclete,
promised that we will have another Advocate to be with us always.
By the paschal event of Christ’s death and glory,
We have received the Holy Spirit, his ineffable Easter gift.
The Spirit of the Risen Jesus
is the “other Advocate” that he promised to stay with us
in the here and now of the Church.
By the indwelling in our lives
of this wonderful Counselor and Consoler
and by our receptivity to his divine grace,
may we be refashioned in the likeness of Christ’s love
and be efficacious instruments of divine healing and transformation.
Help us to bring joy and consolation
to those who languish in the death-dealing situations
of today’s dissipated and broken world.
Fill our hearts with the love of Jesus
and the grace of the Holy Spirit
so that, as resurrection people,
we too may be a “breath of life” and “other Advocates”
for our needy neighbors,
especially the marginalized, the downtrodden and the poor.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
IV. INTERIORIZATION OF THE WORD
The following is the bread of the living Word that will nourish us throughout the week. Please memorize it.
“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 always, the Spirit of truth.” (Jn 14:15-16)
V. TOWARDS LIFE TRANSFORMATION
A. ACTION PLAN: Pray in a special way for the Church that it may truly be receptive to the “other Advocate” present and at work in us and in the world. Let us offer our ministry of intercession for Pope Benedict that he may truly be a docile instrument of the Holy Spirit, as Advocate and Consoler of the universal Church. In word and in deed, be an “Advocate” to those who are in dire need of God’ peace, love and consolation.
B. ACTION PLAN: That we may participate more meaningfully in the saving mission of the Spirit of truth as the Risen Lord’s Advocate, and in view of a more meaningful Year of the Eucharist, make an effort to spend an hour in Eucharistic Adoration. Visit the PDDM WEB site (www.pddm.us) for the EUCHARISTIC ADORATION THROUGH THE LITURGICAL YEAR (# 23): A Weekly Pastoral Tool for the Year of the Eucharist.
Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang PDDM
PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI
SISTER DISCIPLES OF THE DIVINE MASTER
60 Sunset Ave., Staten Island, NY 10314
Tel. (718) 494-8597 // (718) 761-2323