domenica 21 maggio 2017

«Manifestabo ei meipsum»

Today’s gospel is the continuation of last Sunday’s selection. It is a passage taken from the long discourse delivered by Jesus during the last supper. If you remember, last week Jesus revealed his own identity to his disciples: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father … Whoever has seen me has seen the Father … I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” Now, it is time for promises.

First of all, Jesus tells his disciples that he is not leaving them orphans—he will come back. The world will no longer see him, but his disciples will. A new kind of presence of Jesus in the world is about to start: it is the presence of the Risen Lord, invisible to non-believers, but more than ever real for those who have faith in him.

Secondly, Jesus makes a promise that would seem something more than a simple assurance of remaining with us. It is a promise intended for those who, besides believing, keep his commandments: “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him (manifestabo ei meipsum).” I do not know if you realize that Jesus is promising to us a special mystical experience: he assures us that he will manifest himself to us and let us feel his love for us. But on a condition: that we, in our turn, love him. Of course, we do not show our love for Jesus just through words, but through deeds—by the observance of his commandments. In Christian life, faith is not enough. It is necessary—indispensable—if we want to be saved. But, if we wish to experience the presence and the love of Jesus in our lives, we have to keep his commandments. Our Founder, Saint Anthony Mary Zaccaria, on this point writes: “[God’s] bounty gives us—unfaithful and deceitful servants, and his enemies—many gifts, in spite of our negligence; nevertheless, he does not want to give to anyone but to his friends and faithful disciples the gift of perfection, the taste of God, the knowledge of his secrets” (Sermon 3). Friends of Jesus are precisely those who observe his commandments.

On the same condition, Jesus makes another promise to his disciples: “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.” Jesus is speaking of a mysterious figure—the Holy Spirit—who will be sent by the Father. He first designates him by his task: “another Advocate”—another, because the first Advocate is Jesus himself. In the original Greek text of the gospel, we find here the word “Paraclete,” which stands for “defense attorney,” but can mean also “spokesman, mediator, intercessor, comforter, consoler.” Jesus is a Paraclete, because he is the one who intercedes for us before God; here, the Holy Spirit is called Paraclete, because he represents in the Church and in the world the Lord Jesus who has returned to the Father. Then, Jesus reveals the proper name of this mysterious figure—“the Spirit of truth.” Below in his discourse, Jesus will explain why this other Advocate can be called “Spirit of truth.” For the meantime, it is sufficient for us to know that the name of this mysterious figure is “Holy Spirit.”

Jesus is disclosing his secrets to his disciples; among others, he is revealing to them the mystery of God, the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity—the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. It will take ages for Christians to grasp this mystery in its details. Here, we are at the beginning of its revelation.

How important the Holy Spirit is in the life of the Church we have seen in the first reading. Philip, who is a deacon, proclaims the gospel, makes miracles, converts people and baptizes them in the name of the Lord Jesus. But then there is need of the apostles, so that the newly baptized may receive the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, there is no fullness of Christian life.