6th Sunday Easter Year A
Saturday 13th May 2023
The Gospel Paraphrased
There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.
This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased
Jn 14: 15-24
Jesus said to his disciples,
‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments,
and I will ask the Father to give you another comforter.
who will be with you forever. This is the Spirit of Truth,
whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see or recognise him.
However, you know him, because he abides with you and will be in you.
I will not leave you orphaned. I will come to you.
Just a little while and the world will no longer see me,
but you will see me, because I live and you will live.
On that day you will know that I am in the Father,
and you are in me and I am in you.
Those who have my commandments and keep them
are the ones who love me.
Those, who love me, will be loved by my Father.
I, also, love them and will come and reveal myself to them.”
Judas, not the Iscariot, asked him:
‘Lord what has happened that you are going to show yourself to us and not to the world.’
Jesus answered him: ‘Those who love me, keep my word
and my Father will love them.
We will come to them and make our home with them.
Those who do not love me, don’t keep my words.
These words are not my own -they belong to my Father, the one sent me.’
The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.
This Sunday's Psalm
Ps 65:1-7, 16, 20
Shout to God all the earth,
sing the glory of God’s name.
Offer glory and praise.
Say to God: ‘How awesome are your deeds,
your enemies cringe before you,
overawed by your great power.’
All the earth bows before you,
and sings to you,
sings in praise of your great name.
Come! See the deeds of God,
How awesome God’s care of humankind –
sea turned into dry land,
rivers parted to form dry ground.
Oh, let our joy be in God.
Listen, come, you who live in awe of God,
I proclaim what God has done for me.
Praise God, who did not reject my prayer,
Truly, God listened,
heard the sound of my prayer,
and embraced me with love.
Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.
This Sunday's Prayer
Loving Father, the desire of your heart is for us to live within your Love. Send us your Spirit of Truth, our Comforter, to lead us not only to believe in Jesus but to live by his commandments of love. As we discover ourselves sustained by the love of Jesus and the Spirit, may our lives radiate your glorious Life. We ask this in Jesus’ name, confident that you will hear us.
The Commentaries Summarised
As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.
This Sunday's Commentary
This Sunday’s Gospel belongs to a section that goes through to verse 24, therefore the paraphrase given extends to there. In typical Johannine fashion it circles around a theme or two, teasing out implications, weaving in other themes, somewhat like some geometric screen-savers. In this section, the intertwined themes are the fruits of loving Jesus and keeping his word, and the presence of Jesus, the Spirit and the Father in the life of the believer.
Jesus speaks of giving another Paraclete. The term, Paraclete, in Jewish understanding, meant a number of things. Firstly, it had legal overtones denoting one who gave legal assistance and was an advocate. But it also entailed the concept of consolation, guidance, comfort and teaching. In the presence of this Spirit of Truth the disciples would come to recognise a new experience of ‘God-with-us’, albeit not in the bodily form they had known.
The verbs in this section slide between present and future, often in clumsy fashion, just as they had done in last Sunday’s Gospel. Time from God’s perspective is not the linear experience we have, and when God’s presence breaks into the life of the believer, there is always a sense of God being present and active, here and now, yet still with a sense that there is much yet to be fulfilled in the future.
As Jesus stresses his departure, he consoles the disciples with the promise of the abiding presence of, firstly, the Spirit, then, of himself and finally, of his Father and himself.
Jesus here calls for his disciples to love him. Surprisingly to us, this is uncommon in the Gospel of John and, indeed, in much of the New Testament. Disciples are usually called upon to believe in Jesus. The love of Jesus is tied to the love and keeping of his commandments. Belief in Jesus is actively expressed in keeping his commandments and, as these are kept, a disciple comes to find him or herself dwelling within the love of the Father and Jesus.
Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.
This Sunday's Exposition
This Sunday’s Gospel revolves around two experiences: the sense of absence and of presence. While seeming to be opposites, both can work to build relationship between people deeply in love. Absence can lead lovers to appreciate just what the other person means to them. Captain Cook wrote a letter to his wife every week during his long voyages at sea. When he returned he gave these letters to her and they kept her love alive when he returned to sea.* Even though there was so much absence in their marriage, they were able to turn it into another form of presence.
We grapple with understanding the presence of God because we experience it in the absence of anything that is easily tangible. In the Gospel, Jesus tells the disciples that he is going away but he will return to them with another sense of presence. While he was bodily with them, they had a clearly delineated sense of who he was and they looked to him for knowledge and guidance. When he tells them of his departure, it is clearly with the understanding that this will lead to a new sense of presence with the divine – a sense of being taught by the Spirit of Truth and of living in the love between the Father and Jesus.
As his disciples, living so many years after his departure, we are to look for his presence _within_ ourselves. Instead of being outside of us, he has promised to be within us: leading, comforting, guiding. As we live by his words, his commandments, our sense of his presence grows. Looking back over our lives, we can recognise where his presence has guided us in the past. Reflection on those times will heighten our sensitivity to his presence. We will realise that he truly is working through our lives for the glory of his Father and that his absence, in the bodily form that walked this earth, actually allows a greater presence within each of us.
*To the chagrin of historians, she burnt them all the letters just before she died.
Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.
This Sunday's Reflection
I am not a counsellor but occasionally people tell me their story. Once one woman poured out her heart about the destructive relationships in which she had gotten herself caught. It struck me that this had little to do with sex but rather fear of loneliness drove her into bed with men who she knew were no good for her. Loneliness is the cause of many destructive behaviours: excessive drinking, drugs, domination of people, hours of mindless TV, video, internet, shopping, work – anything to numb the void.
And, wow, isn’t the void deep. Made in God’s image, we are made for love. First and foremost, it is love of God. All through John’s Gospel, Jesus has affirmed his unity with the Father. This is the love within which he walked and it gave him his calm assurance and passion for life. In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that we are to be in him and he in us in a similar way. God’s way of relationship is to be ours. So why doesn’t it just happen? If God is God, why aren’t we just swamped with a sense of the divine presence that sweeps away all our loneliness, fear and destructive behaviour?
Because God wants us to come offering our hearts freely. Instead of swamping us with glory and dazzling lights, it is as though God is waiting for us in a darkened room. As we enter, we sense a presence, both loving and respectful. As we calm down, attune our eyes to the dark, our ears to the lightest sound, we can come close and feel the breath on our skin. Slowly, slowly, we trust in what our heart knows and realises: that while we are on this earth, faith is a face to face vision in the dark.
Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.
This Sunday's Visual Meditation
– Johann Christoph Weigel produced numerous woodcuts to illustrate the Bible. This one shows a person praying for the Holy Spirit. It was published in1695.
The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.
As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"
Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.
This Sunday's Mulling Meditation
Mull on the various presences of God that you experience in your life.
How does God come to you
– in prayer alone,
– in the prayer of community,
– in your family life,
– through your friends,
– in Scripture,
– in nature,
– in reading,
– whatever way God speaks to you.
Acknowledge and appreciate the special way God speaks to your heart.
In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.
This Sunday's Mirror Meditation
Most people who pray have a sense of dissatisfaction with their prayer – as though they still have to ‘get it right’. In this week’s Mirror Meditation we will sit with God, pondering where our own sense of dissatisfaction comes from.
Rest in the Love of your God.
While you are calmly there, open your heart to whatever difficulties you feel in relation to God.
It could be
– a sense of absence,
– awful grief
– bewilderment in God’s ways
– a sense of personal failure
– recognition of sin that has not been faced
or any other strange weird facet of our broken human heart.
Resting in the Love of God, sit with this dissatisfaction.
Can you see any good about it? Has it taught you anything? Did it break you in a way you needed to be broken? Challenge you when you needed to be challenged? Change you in any way?
Can you see how it can undermine your love and trust in God?
Resting in the Love of God, ask to see your dissatisfaction guided by the Spirit of Truth.
Listen, imagine, rest in God’s love.