Sixth Sunday of Easter (Year A)

13 May 2023

Acts 8:5-8, 14-17;
Ps 66;
1Pt 3:15-18;
Jn 14:15-21

Let all the earth cry out to God with joy


The Words of Divine Love Asking to Love

Today’s Gospel is a continuation of Jesus’ words that we heard last Sunday. We are therefore invited to be in the mystical atmosphere of the Last Supper and Jesus’ Farewell Discourse to His intimate disciples, to welcome and cherish the profound and moving message of Christ, the One who “loved his own in the world and loved them to the end, when his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father.” (Jn 13:1). Even today as a week ago, these few lines of commentary that follow would like to propose just a few useful points for further meditation on these profound pronouncements of Christ that we have heard.

1. “If You Love Me, You Will Keep My Commandments”

Having declared to His disciples that He is the way, the truth, and the life, and that He is the visible face of the invisible Father God, Jesus now speaks of the love His disciples should have for Him, indicating with authority in what it concretely consists: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Such a “rule” seems to be very close to Jesus’ heart, for He will reiterate again toward the end of His brief discourse, “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me” (Jn 14:21; also 15:10). It is therefore necessary to delve deeper into this message, emphasizing at least three important aspects.

Firstly, as we remember from the introduction, the context is completely wrapped up in Jesus’ love for his disciples and all humanity, which reaches its climax in the sacrifice of the Cross. Jesus therefore loves first, as the Father who first “so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (Jn 3:16). Rather, He is now the concrete and visible expression of God’s invisible love. As such, Jesus invites His disciples in the New Covenant era to respond concretely to this love, just as God demanded from His people Israel love and observance of the commandments, after freeing them from slavery in Egypt and making the Sinai covenant with them, “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone! Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength. Take to heart these words which I command you today” (Dt 6:4-6).

Secondly, the commandments to be observed, as well as the concrete expression of love for Jesus, do not refer only to precepts or rules of a legal and moral nature, but concern the entirety of the teaching He left to the disciples. It is therefore about observing all of His words, or simply His Word, as is made clear by Jesus Himself later on: “Whoever loves me will keep my word […]. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words” (Jn 14:23,24). Moreover, all the commandments and teachings of Jesus find their culmination in the new commandment of love, pointed out by Him from the very beginning of the Farewell Discourse: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (Jn 13:34). (It is Love that calls for love!) Besides, this is also in keeping with what is stated about the observance of the divine commandments in the OT, which, on the one hand, primarily involve the Words or Word of God revealed to Moses and the prophets, and on the other hand, are enclosed in the dual commandment of love for God and neighbor.

Finally, in light of the foregoing, keeping Jesus’ commandments/words is not only about the action of performing what He recommends, but also and above all implies a constant and jealous keeping every word of the Master who alone has “words of eternal life,” as Peter professed on behalf of all His disciples of all times (Jn 6:68). Jesus Himself invited, indeed, implored the disciples to abide in His words, and that means abiding in Him and His love, to bear the enduring fruit in mission (cf. Jn 15:4-10). But do we, his disciples-missionaries today, really love Jesus? Are we always immersed in His words and thus in the sweet love of Him and for Him?

2. Waiting for “Another Advocate,” “the Spirit of truth

Just in the perspective of obeying and keeping Jesus’ words, He introduces to the disciples (for the first time in His Farewell Discourse) the figure of “another Advocate,” “to be with you always.” Advocate means He-who-is-called-to-be-alongside, Consoler. We know that it is the Holy Spirit, but here He is immediately defined as “the Spirit of truth,” because, as explained later, He will help the disciples to remember and understand more and more all the words of Jesus, the first Master and Advocate for His disciples (cf. 1Jn 2:1). Indeed, it is stated in Jn 14:26: “The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you”; and again in Jn 16:13: “But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming.”

In this way, every disciple of Jesus is called to know and recognize this Spirit of truth who is actually the Spirit of Jesus who is the way, the truth, and the life. Here, Jesus’ statement about the mutual relationship between the Spirit and the disciples reveals a fact: “you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you.” Such revelation, however, is at the same time a call to his own to be open to the Spirit and to always cultivate such “permanence” of the Spirit in them, in contrast to that “world” that unfortunately rejects Jesus’ words and his love. The Spirit will be precisely the gift of the Risen One to his disciples for new life in Christ. And the Spirit’s presence in the disciples will also be a help and a guarantee of their abiding in Jesus, in His teaching and love for Him, because He is God’s Spirit of Love. Such presence of the Spirit will then be a sure guide and constant inspiration for the disciples to continue the same mission of Jesus, Master and Lord, as the deacon Philip and other apostles, that is, sent forth, in Samaria (cf. Acts 8:5-17; first reading). In such a Spirit, believers in Jesus will certainly know how to be “always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” that is in them, and this “with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear” (cf. 1Pt 3:15-18; Second reading), because everything will be done in the Spirit of Love.

3. “Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him

This last sentence of Jesus’ discourse sounds as if it were a condition, in return for which every man will be loved by God and Jesus. In fact, as pointed out previously (in the first point of the commentary), the unconditional and preventive love of God the Father and the Son to all mankind “to the end” of the supreme self-sacrifice on the Cross has already been affirmed. In other words, Christ’s love, which precedes, calls “with gentleness and reverence” for man’s adherence and faith, so that he, once the door of his heart is opened, may receive the fullness of divine love and manifestation “will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” Indeed, as Jesus will explain soon after, it is not so much the divine manifestation external to man who opens himself to Love, but the reality of “Trinitarian indwelling” in the soul by God the Father, Son with the Spirit: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him” (Jn 14:23).

It is not, therefore, about some particular experience reserved for a select few, but about the universal reality of every baptized person who, by virtue of his or her Baptism, becomes the Temple of the Holy Spirit and thus of the living God. Thus, there is a glimpse of the way of realization of God’s presence in the midst of his people, as foretold to Israel through the prophet Zechariah: “Now, I am coming to dwell in your midst” (Zec 2:14).

With this in mind, before finally ascending to the Father, the risen Christ will assure His disciples, sent by Him to all nations, “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20). Thus, every disciple-missionary of Christ will always be able to say, like St. Paul the apostle, “Yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20). We pray that all of us baptized, called to be disciple-missionaries, may grow more and more in our universal vocation to be temples and witnesses of the God, living and great in love, so that we may be able to pass on to all in need that love of God in Christ, on which we are nourished every day in communion with His Word and His Body and Blood offered for us. Amen.


Useful points to consider:

Pope Francis, Message for World Mission (Sun) Day 2023, 22 October 2023

Hearts on fire, feet on the move (cf. Lk 24:13-35)

1. Our hearts burned within us “when he explained the Scriptures to us”. In missionary activity, the word of God illumines and transforms hearts.


After listening to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, the risen Jesus, “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Lk 24:27). The hearts of the disciples thrilled, as they later confided to each other: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” (v. 32). Jesus is himself the living Word, who alone can make our hearts burn within us, as he enlightens and transforms them.

In this way, we can better understand Saint Jerome’s dictum that “ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ” (Commentary on Isaiah, Prologue). “Without the Lord to introduce us, it is impossible to understand sacred Scripture in depth; yet the opposite is equally true: without sacred Scripture, the events of Jesus’ mission and of his Church in the world remain indecipherable” (Aperuit Illis, 1). It follows that knowledge of Scripture is important for the Christian life, and even more so for the preaching of Christ and his Gospel. Otherwise, what are you passing on to others if not your own ideas and projects? A cold heart can never make other hearts burn!

So let us always be willing to let ourselves be accompanied by the Risen Lord as he explains to us the meaning of the Scriptures. May he make our hearts burn within us; may he enlighten and transform us, so that we can proclaim his mystery of salvation to the world with the power and wisdom that come from his Spirit.

John Paul II, General Audience, Wednesday, 24 April 1991 [Unofficial translation from the original Italian text]

1. Spiritual life needs enlightenment and guidance. That is why Jesus, in founding the Church and sending the Apostles into the world, entrusted them with the task of teaching all the nations, as we read in the Gospel according to Matthew (Mt 28:19-20), but also of “preaching the Gospel to the whole creation,” as the canonical text of Mark’s Gospel says (Mk 16:15). St. Paul also speaks of the apostolate as the “light for all” (Eph 3:9).

But this work of the evangelizing and teaching Church belongs to the ministry of the Apostles and their successors and, in a different capacity, to all members of the Church, to continue forever the work of Christ the “one teacher” (Mt 23:8), who brought to humanity the fullness of God’s revelation. There remains the need for an inner Teacher, who makes Jesus’ teaching penetrate the spirit and hearts of men. It is the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus himself calls the “Spirit of truth,” and whom he promises as the One who will guide into all truth (cf. Jn 14:17; 16:13). If Jesus said of Himself, “I am the truth” (Jn 14:6), it is this truth of Christ that the Holy Spirit makes known and spreads: “He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears… he will take from what is mine and declare it to you” (Jn 16:13-14). He Spirit is Light of the soul: “Lumen cordium”, as we invoke him in the Pentecost Sequence.

2. The Holy Spirit was Light and Inner Teacher for the Apostles who had to know Christ in depth in order to fulfill the task of his evangelizers. He was and is for the Church, and, in the Church, for believers of all generations and especially for theologians and teachers of the spirit, for catechists and leaders of Christian communities. It has been and is also so for all those who, within and outside the visible boundaries of the Church, wish to follow God’s ways with a sincere heart, and through no fault of their own find no one to help them decipher the riddles of the soul and discover revealed truth. May the Lord grant all our brothers and sisters - millions and indeed billions of men - the grace of recollection and docility to the Holy Spirit in moments that can be decisive in their lives. For us Christians, the intimate teaching of the Holy Spirit is a joyful certainty, grounded in Christ’s word about the coming of the “other Advocate,” whom - he said - “the Father will send in my name. He will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you” (Jn 14:26). “He will guide you to all truth” (Jn 16:13).

3. As is clear from this text, Jesus does not entrust His word only to the memory of His hearers: this memory will be supported by the Holy Spirit, who will continually revive in the Apostles the memory of events and the sense of the Gospel mysteries.

In fact, the Holy Spirit guided the Apostles in the transmission of the word and life of Jesus, inspiring both their oral preaching and writings and the redaction of the Gospels, as we saw at the time in the catechesis on the Holy Spirit and Revelation.

But it is still He who gives the readers of Scripture the help to understand the divine meaning included in the text of which He Himself is the inspirer and principal author: He alone can make known “the depths of God” (1 Cor 2:10), such as are contained in the sacred text; He who was sent to instruct the disciples in the teachings of their Master (cf. Jn. 16:13).