6th Sunday of Easter, Year A
6-9 year olds
(Adults, begin by reading the Gospel aloud to the child, unless the child is a very fluent reader.)
This Sunday's Gospel continues the discussion from last week that Jesus has with his disciples at the Last Supper. Before he dies and rises to new life, Jesus needs the disciples to understand that there is going to be a new way for them to be together.
"I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever."
An advocate is someone who stands up for someone else, who speaks in their place. In Jesus' time, when someone was brought to see a judge, an advocate might stand close beside that person, whispering in their ear, giving them the words to say to explain themselves. The word that is used in the Bible comes from a Greek word - parakaleó - and means someone who calls to, someone who encourages, someone who comforts. An advocate would be a good person to have.
I wonder how the disciples feel about this. Jesus says that God will give them another Advocate, but the disciples are content with having Jesus. Why cannot he be their advocate forever? I doubt that they want someone new.
This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
I wonder if the disciples are getting this. I wonder if they are actually thinking, "The Spirit of truth? Who is that? We are supposed to know him?" Jesus says that the Spirit of truth abides with them. That means the Spirit of truth lives with them. I wonder if this makes them even more confused. They live with Jesus. Who is this Spirit?
Last week, we heard Jesus say,
"I am the way and the truth and the life."
Jesus is the truth, and he tells the disciples that God will send the Spirit of truth. So this is not someone new that God will send. God will send the Spirit of Jesus.
I wonder if that makes the disciples feel better about Jesus leaving them to die and rise to new life. It will be a new way for them to be together, but still it will be Jesus-- he just won't be in his body. While he lives his earthy life, Jesus can only be with the people of one time and one place, but when he is Risen, his Risen life can be with many people of many times and many places. And, not only is the Spirit of Jesus with people, but indeed the Holy Spirit is in people.
Jesus seems to be explaining and explaining. It is a lot for the disciples to hold onto. Jesus knows that they do not understand now, but later they will understand this new way of being together, because that is one of the jobs of the Advocate--to help us remember Jesus' words, and to help us understand.
For now, before he dies and rises, before the Holy Spirit comes to live in them, Jesus wants to leave the disciples with one overall message. Maybe we can figure out what it is. What one word does Jesus repeat most often in the Gospel for this Sunday?
“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 forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”
Jesus says "love" 5 times. He begins and ends with love. Perhaps Jesus is not preparing the disciples for a new way of being together at all. It has always been about love.
Jesus begins and ends with the idea that those who love him, "keep" his commandments. Loving, he says, is keeping.
We love Jesus by holding his commandments as special, as holy, as treasure.
And what are his commandments? How about this one:
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12
Can we do this? Can we love as the Good Shepherd loves? In this time of pandemic, when we are kept inside with the same people day after day, can we love as Jesus loves? It can seem difficult, right?
But who do we have to help us? Who loves within us, so that we can love each other?Who whispers in our ear--or rather, who whispers deep inside of us--comforting us, encouraging us, calling to us to get up and try again?
The Advocate! The Spirit of Jesus.