The gospel from John today situates us at the Last Supper, not post resurrection appearances. After calling on the disciples to trust him beyond all else, Jesus proclaims: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments and I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate.” That might make us think someone is impersonating Jesus at the table. It is as if Jesus were saying, “If you behave yourselves I’ll ask God so send you help.” That is one way to interpret this Gospel passage – it focuses our attention on the relative merits of our behavior with the hope that we can demonstrate enough virtue to pass muster. But that interpretation flounders, when Jesus goes on to speak of a Spirit of truth that the world cannot perceive. The idea of putting in great effort, pulling your own weight and earning everything you get is exactly the system of the world. Instead, Jesus is speaking of something else. When we listen carefully, we hear that Jesus is not talking about obedience but about loving him. He is talking about the transformation that happens when we fall in love with him. Falling in love with another person changes our perspective, we see the world differently and understand everything in relation to the beloved. People who love one another often take on some of the characteristics of the other. Long-time married couples often even start to look like each other! Such love points toward what Jesus is describing with his words. The love Jesus is talking about is devotion to the one who loved us first, whose love for us is immeasurable. This love is a commitment to the one who offers us a future of life beyond our imagining. The love Jesus is talking about orients absolutely everything else in our life. So when he says “If you love me you will keep my commandments,” we could easily rephrase that to say, “If you love me you will share my perspective and desire.”
In promising to send another Advocate or the Spirit, Jesus is promising that we will have help in perceiving or knowing the mind of Jesus so that we can remain true to who Jesus calls us to be. The role of the Spirit is expressed quite beautifully in the fourth Eucharistic Prayer which says: “That we might live no longer for ourselves but for him…he sent the Holy Spirit from you, Father, as the first fruits for those who believe, so that, bringing to perfection his work in the world, he might sanctify creation to the full.”
Loving Christ, open us to the Spirit who empowers us to bring Christ’s work to completion. Or as Jesus said so simply, “If you love me, you will keep my commands.”
Have a blessed Easter Season!