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AHC A Obey My Commandments - Hebrew Catholics

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New Zealand Branch

Obey My Commandments

6th Sunday of Easter    Year A

A Hebrew Catholic Perspective
www.hebrewcatholic.org.nz

Click here for a printable copy of this paper

St. John 14: 15 — 24

 

Introduction

Although our celebration of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus is now some weeks passed, we are in fact continuing to expand our knowledge and experience of our Risen Lord’s teaching and sacrifice. We are, as it were, reliving with the disciples, the 50 days between Easter Day and the high feast of Pentecost. Thus it is a time of pondering the whole mystery of Easter, a time of revisiting the works of the Prophets, and reviewing our Lord’s teaching — especially His instruction given at the Last Supper, part of which we are here considering.

In the first half of chapter 14 of St. John’s Gospel, Jesus began by reassuring His ever-loyal Apostles with typically comforting words: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” He then went on to focus their attention on at least one reason He was about to depart from their midst: to go and prepare a place for them in His Father’s house. For what reason? — that where He resides, He wants His disciples also to be — in His presence.

It is particularly in this second half of chapter 14 that our Lord emphasises just how this can be accomplished even while His followers serve their time in His Church on earth. He talks of departing from them, yet not leaving them. Whereas previously He talked of His disciples belonging to His Father’s house, now He reverses the focus. Those who sincerely try to obey His instruction will be host to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit within them. This is no training gimmick. Our Lord must provide His disciples, down through the ages, with some vision of His presence and work in both time and space: to show, therefore, how future followers are seen by Him as equally important as those in His earthly ministry. For this reason He can talk of a final resting place in Heaven or an indwelling of the Trinity in our human soul during our time of pilgrimage on this earth: all in the one training session.

Let us walk slowly through our Lord’s lesson and discover how He expresses all this to His Apostles, and includes us in the very same message.

[For the reader who benefits from an overview of the passage to be meditated
on, with all the richness of its content, we offer a summary by Ronald Cox
from The Gospel Story. Click here.]

We acknowledge that our Reflections on this text are a little repetitive.
We have permitted this for the purpose of helping readers focus on the
critical understandings essential for “getting the message”.

Click here for a printable copy of our text.

 

Some Reflections on our text

Verse 15

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

The opening verse has a very Hebrew ring to it. To “keep” His commandments is to stay on track by being guided by His instruction. Some translators have, “obey”, which fits the content perfectly since to obey is to listen to Him with the heart’s intention to carry out His teaching. Some translations reflect another Hebraic tone: “If you love me, then show it by obeying my commandments!” All of these actually echo with a very loving undertone, meaning, when we truly set out to love God and respond generously with all our heart to His instructions He provides spiritual strength to enable us to perform His Divine Will.

It is helpful to note in verses 15 and 21 the reference is to keeping or observing (obeying) His commandments, while in verses 23 and 24 it refers to obeying the word or words of Jesus, i.e., obeying His teaching. We therefore can conclude that, for practical purposes, in this context, there is no real difference between “commandments”, “word”, or words.” This is also the situation when referring to the Ten Commandments, often called the Law, which really means “word” or “words”, of God, or His “teaching”. (see Deuteronomy 5: 5.)

This variation in language is the normal practice of rabbis such as Jesus.

At this early point, we need to enquire just what the phrase “my commandments” refers to. In our Reflections and meditations, we do not usually recommend jumping from one Biblical reference to another. However, in this single verse (15) we meet one of the most important (and beautiful) treasures of the New Testament.

So let us look at:

•     But now, Lady, I ask you, not as though I were writing a new commandment but the
        one we have had from the beginning: let us love one another.

        For this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment,
        as you heard from the beginning, in which you should walk.          
2 John 5 — 6

•     “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not
        to abolish but to fulfill.
Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not
        the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things
        have taken place.
Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments
        and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever
        obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

                                                                                                               Matthew 5: 17 — 20
 
•     There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said, “Teacher, what
       must I do to inherit eternal life?”
       Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?”
       He said in reply, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all
       your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor
       as yourself.”
       He replied to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”
                                                                                                                Luke 10: 25 — 28      

•      I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also
        should love one another.                                                                    John 13: 34

Some commentators will highlight the two commandments (literally), which Jesus delivers during their evening together:—

•      after washing the feet of the Apostles, commanding them to serve
        one another;

•      later calling on them to, “love one another as I have loved you.”

In all of the teaching of our Lord about obedience, love and unity, there is no inconsistency when we view it as He did. 

The person who loves Jesus will seek to obey His specific, individual commands mentioned just above. But such a person will also strive to understand His broader teaching and follow it, keeping as close as possible to the path He has provided.

We need to be quite clear about the Law as Jesus taught it. He re-affirmed in all its detail: that He had come not to destroy anything, but to bring it to perfection, to fulfil it. It is so very necessary for us to understand what this means. In His “Sermon on the Mount”, Jesus detailed the principles of His Law. In doing so He abrogated nothing of God’s Commandments. Rather, He raised them to a new level of perfection: He gave them all of the fullness God had intended them to display in due time.

Therefore we can be certain that “my commandments” in fact, refers to the whole of God’s teaching in the Scriptures.

But here is the critical component. All that Jesus commanded, in raising “the level” of obedience required, is totally, utterly and absolutely impossible to achieve! Unless, that is, we strive to do so in Him.

He, Himself, is the totality of God’s Law, of God’s Teaching. Jesus is, Himself, the very Word of God. He is the Torah, the Law, Teaching, Instruction, and Words of God.

In His own words, He (alone), is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Without the full gift of Himself to us, we cannot possibly follow what He demands of us.

Now is the time for Him to disclose the most amazing component in His final talk with His closest friends: how would He give Himself to them and empower them to live according to His Way?

He will ask the Father to give each one of them the Holy Spirit,
to be with them forever.

Verses 16 and 17

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate
to be with you always,

the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it
neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains
with you, and will be in you.

The word “Advocate” is used by other Gospel writers in slightly different ways.

In the Gospel of St John, the Holy Spirit is not the “defence attorney” who defends the disciples when they are placed on trial. Rather, the Holy Spirit is a teacher, a witness to Jesus, and a prosecutor of the “world (the unbelievers)”, — convicting it of sin. Here our Lord is saying,

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper,
who will stay with you forever.”

We can get a little confused as to who sends the Holy Spirit, or the Advocate, the Helper.
St. John talks of the Helper coming in three different ways although there is no real distinction to be made between them.

•     Verse 16: the Helper / Advocate is “given” by the Father at the request
       of the Son;
 
•     Verse 26: the Father will send Him in the name of the Son;

•     In 15: 26 (see also 16: 7) He is sent from the Father by the Son.

Jesus adds (in verse 17):

“He is the Spirit, who reveals the truth about God. The World cannot
receive Him, because it cannot see Him or know him. But you know
Him, because He remains with you and is in you.”

Verse 15 and 16 can be interpreted as though our Lord is calling for us, His followers, to make a choice — to love him. If we do make that choice, he has an order for us to follow:

“Obey my commandments” — meaning take great care to follow what
I have taught you in equally great detail! Then I will ask the Father to
send you the Spirit of truth to help you. You can count on him being
with you!”                                                               (Verse 17)

It is helpful for us to take note that up until now, our Lord has been asserting His oneness with the Father. He therefore lets Himself be seen as doing nothing, judging nothing, teaching nothing, except what He learns from the Father.

Now, in the rest of the address, Jesus confronts us with how inseparable are He and the Holy Spirit; thus He can, in real life, return to His disciples by the Spirit: He dwells in them, He instructs them, He encourages and consoles them wholly by His Spirit. And so this continues down through the ages.

We are certainly being shown by Jesus the inner workings of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. But let us remember, at this point in our Lord’s ministry, if we are trying to respond to Him with all our heart, then — don’t forget — we are family — His family. He therefore shares these secrets with us.

Verse 18

I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.

Does this sound a little strange to us?

The term “orphans” is what was used to refer to disciples of a rabbi who had died. No one who chooses to follow Jesus will ever be left out of the family connection despite short-term appearances.

Verses 19 and 20

In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will
see me, because I live and you will live.

On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you
are in me and I in you.

Our Lord is, of course, referring to His death, and then His being seen by His followers after His resurrection. He is saying, in effect, “Because I will live again, you also will live.” Then, comes one of the most treasured explanations given by Him.

“On that day”, says Jesus, “you will have the consolation of knowing a unique truth:

I am inseparably one with the Father. Even so, shall you be one with me,
and I with you.”

Or:

“I and my Father are just like one person, and you and I are just like
one person.”

This truth, shared by our beloved Messiah, must surely be one of the greatest treasures of the Faith.

Verse 21

Jesus continues in strictly Jewish style:

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.”

Our Lord here is using the same language as was used in Exodus 33: 13 for God’s appearance to Moses. It is the language of divine presence, a presence which draws the beloved into a loving union, strengthening, empowering, and conferring membership.

To “have” the Messiah’s commandments, teaching, words or instruction does not just mean what the Greek word in the text implies: to “grasp with the mind”. Our Lord is referring quite specifically to the Jewish practice (in fact, His own) of literally “having” God’s Word attached to the body: on the forehead and on one arm pointing to the heart — both emphasising that the Divine Word must dwell in our hearts, empowering us to love it and live it, at every moment. The disciples present would have had no difficulty understanding these words.

This teaching was greatly valued in the early Church.

St. Augustine (C.E. 354 — 430) describes both a lower and higher sense of the phrase, “has my commandments”. He writes:

“He that hath in the memory, and keepeth in the life;
that hath in
the discourse, and keepeth in the manners;
that hath in hearing, and keepeth in doing, or that hath
in doing, and keepeth in persevering.”

Such, says the great orator for Christ, is the one who loves the Lord: not just in words, warm feelings, or even zeal in defending the truth. For such a person, there is only one test of love: obedience.

Verse 22

One of the group with Jesus (by name Judas — not the betrayer) asked what seems to us a very reasonable question:

Judas, not the Iscariot, said to him, “Master, (then)
what happened that you will reveal yourself to us
and not to the world?”

Obviously Disciple Judas has detected that our Lord is using the same language used between God and Moses:

“My presence will go with you”

“Lord, show me your glory,” etc.

He is anticipating some kind of external theophany, i.e. a physical revelation.

Verse 23

St. John opens the verse with the Semitic equivalent to quotation marks in English.

Jesus answered and said to him, “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.

Jesus thereby corrects false notions people may have of how God wishes to manifest His glory and His sanctifying presence among His people. It will not be by breathtaking mega-events. Rather it is an inner manifestation of love, and indwelling by which the Father and Son enter into a loving relationship with the disciple who loves Jesus by living out His word in action.                                           (James McPolin, S.J.)

Verse 24

Jesus continues:

Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet
the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father
who sent me.

We are here brought face to face with the Word of God. Jesus was presented at the beginning of St John’s Gospel as the Word made flesh, making His dwelling among mankind. Here, now, Jesus declares that what we hear, when we listen to His teaching, is not His own words, but in fact His Father’s. So, linking this with Verse 23, when we set our hearts on obeying and putting His teaching into practice, the Father and the Son together make their abode in us. They abide in us, rest in us, share their loving presence, their in-dwelling, with us.

There is a warning. Those who do not follow Jesus’ teaching, having had it presented to them, are accountable for ignoring the words from God’s own heart. They are even more accountable since the Holy Spirit has been sent by both the Father and the Son to help people hear and follow God’s teaching.

 

Conclusion

As our Lord draws close to the end of His teaching ministry He brings together the key themes of His mission as Saviour. St. John, at the beginning of his Gospel account describes Jesus as the Word of God, and declares that all things came into being through Him (John 1: 1 — 3). During creation, the Holy Spirit hovered over the waters (Genesis 1: 2). Now, at the Last Supper, our Lord talks of sending the Holy Spirit to each disciple. And even more:

“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.”
                                                                                (John 14:23)

In a little less than 60 hours, Jesus will have been crucified, and risen from the dead. He will meet His disciples and breath the Holy Spirit upon them. He will have thus completed this stage of His mission — restoring humanity so that it can again live physically in the presence of God as at creation.

At creation, “….. God saw all that He had made, and found it
very good.” (Genesis 1: 31)

Now the Word of God, the Messiah, sent on a mission of restoration and redemption, can declare that whoever loves Him and keeps His word, His teaching, will be seen as “very good”, truly good, and worthy to become the dwelling place of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Hebrew Scriptures and traditional understanding of them provide us with the insight we need to appreciate the magnitude of what Jesus Messiah is teaching.

This teaching has been presented by Jesus as an apparent contrast to the early part of this chapter where He talked of going to prepare a place for His disciples in His Father’s house. His method of conveying the beautiful vision of restored unity is a unique and truly wonderful gift to each person. Both aspects reflect the truth of God’s love for us: the here-and-now indwelling of the Blessed Trinity and the yet-to-come return of the Messiah to take us to our eternal resting place with Him. This eternal dwelling in Him will be the perfect establishment of His Kingdom and the completion of the mission given by His Father for the redemption of mankind.

At this point we take leave of Jesus addressing His eleven Apostles. They have still more to learn before His arrest in an hour or two.

Ours is the task to meditate on His very special words, and take them into our memory with a clear intention to try and put them into practice. We will have some successes and plenty of slip-ups. But nowhere in Sacred Scripture does God say we must be successful — only that we must earnestly try our best. True, Jesus said, “Be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect”. But His is a programme of restoration and bringing this to completion. Jesus taught, that it is by our faith in Him, that we will grow to this perfection. This is precisely why the Blessed Trinity desires to dwell within us: to enable this great mission of love to restore us with the fullness of the Risen Life of Jesus Christ.

If this is not “Good News”, then nothing is!

In Jesus, the Anointed One, we find our true life, our true treasure. All else fades in comparison. So let’s help one another by prayer and patient kindness to keep our Lord’s words constantly present in mind and heart.

 

Shalom!

 

Further Reading

For those who would like a detailed study resource
on the readings for Sunday, please visit:

Agape Bible Study — 6th Sunday of Easter ― Year A

If you require only the section on the Gospel reading,
just scroll down the page.

To view all the material on the Agape website please visit:
www.agapebiblestudy.com

This website is highly recommended:

 

 

The Gospel Story

By R. Cox (CYM 1950)

St. John 14: 15 — 24

To enter into the divine life, there is no need for a long journey; the apostles do not have to go anywhere; they have to become Christ-like. And the way to do that is by love. ‘God is love; he who dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him’ (1 John 4: 16). Our Lord now lets them into the deepest mystery of the Godhead, the final revelation of his own divine life: the mutual love of Father and Son is the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity.

When friends part they promise to keep in touch with each other: they will compensate for physical absence by communication of their thoughts and affections. But Jesus promises his friends more than an occasional message; at Pentecost he and the Father will send their own eternal love, the Holy Spirit. It is not a casual visit that he promises; the Holy Spirit will stay with them always. He will be closer to them than Jesus himself has been during the past two years; he will not only be in their company, he will be within them. Through him they will share in the divine life; and that life belongs to the Father and the Son. So all three Persons will take up their permanent abode in the soul of him who has charity, the only condition for this indwelling. And that means Jesus will be with them even closer than he is now.

Our Lord has completely reversed the image he began with (verses 1 — 14). Instead of the apostles going to him, and living with him in the ‘Father’s house’, he will come to them, and make them into dwelling-places for the Blessed Trinity. This ‘coming’ is visible only to minds illumined by faith; it will not be the pageant that the Jews (1) were expecting. Jude’s question is based on this false picture of a Messianic triumph. Our Lord does not reply directly to his difficulty; he simply repeats the essentials of his teaching. It will be for the ‘truth-giving Spirit’ to illumine their minds, and give them understanding of all that he has been telling them; his work will be to clarify, not to reveal new truths.

(1)  the Jews — referring here to a generally held expectation that God would send a mighty conqueror to free them from the oppression of Roman slavery, barbarity and paganism.

 

Proclaim the Gospel to Every Creature

(Mark 16: 15)

The real Jesus, is the real answer to the real needs of the world!

Let us remember God’s Teaching, contained in His Word and in doing
so, remain close to Him. The following are only examples illustrating how
you can note the gems the Holy Spirit highlights for your on-going reflection.

Obey My Commandments

6th Sunday of Easter     Year A                   St. John 14: 15 — 24

1.    So often, people hear Jesus say, “If you (really) love me, you will keep my
       commandments”. It is so easy to then slip into thinking: Well, I don’t actually
       keep any commandments particularly well, so obviously, I can’t claim to love the
       Lord! This is wrong! The actual message from Jesus is, “When you genuinely
       love me and at least try to live according to my teaching, then you will be
       empowered to keep my commandments. You cannot keep them by your own
       strength. You must draw on the power I am making available to you. This
       power I will give to every single person who asks for it, despite how often they
       fail. But you must ask constantly in order to receive constantly.”

2.    Jesus says, “I will not leave you, nor indeed, any person who turns to me, an
       orphan. If you listen to what I teach and try to carry it out in your own way
       and set of circumstances, you will always be part of the Household of God —
       you will always be part of the family. You will never, ever, ever, be left alone!
       First, you already have a place set aside for you in your eternal home in Heaven.
       Secondly, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit will actually be honoured to
       come and dwell within you, if you invite them to do so!”

3.    “The ‘word’ you hear”, says Jesus, is not mine, but that of the Father, who
       sent me”.

       The long line of martyrs and saints down through the centuries of conflict and
       political turmoil — all give witness to the joy and consolation they experienced
       at the remembrance of the words of our Blessed Messiah — even facing savage,
       starving animals in a Roman amphitheatre, about to tear them to pieces. For
       they knew with certitude that the words of Jesus are the words of His Father,
       given for us. And because they trusted and believed in Jesus, they therefore
       believed in God. Such was the privilege they counted this to be, they
saw
       themselves as being granted the special honour of bearing witness with

       their lives.

       Blessed be God who strengthens His Family to pray for and help one another
       to remain faithful to His Son and His glorious Gospel!

Blessed be God forever. Halleluia !

 Shalom!

Click here for a printable copy of these Redflections

 

 

John 14: 15 — 24

Easter 6     Year A

NEW AMERICAN BIBLE

15    “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

16    And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate (8) to be
        with you always,

17    the Spirit of truth, (9) which the world cannot accept, because it neither
        sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will
        be in you.

18    I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. (10)

19    In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me,
        because I live and you will live.

20    On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and
        I in you.

21    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.”

22    Judas, not the Iscariot, (11) said to him, “Master, (then) what happened
        that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?”

23    Jesus answered and said to him, “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. 

24    Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you
        hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me.

8 [16] Another Advocate: Jesus is the first advocate (paraclete); see ⇒ 1 John 2:1, where Jesus is an advocate in the sense of intercessor in heaven. The Greek term derives from legal terminology for an advocate or defense attorney, and can mean spokesman, mediator, intercessor, comforter, consoler, although no one of these terms encompasses the meaning in John. The Paraclete in John is a teacher, a witness to Jesus, and a prosecutor of the world, who represents the continued presence on earth of the Jesus who has returned to the Father.

9 [17] The Spirit of truth: this term is also used at Qumran, where it is a moral force put into a person by God, as opposed to the spirit of perversity. It is more personal in John; it will teach the realities of the new order (⇒ John 14:26), and testify to the truth (⇒ John 14:6). While it has been customary to use masculine personal pronouns in English for the Advocate, the Greek word for “spirit” is neuter, and the Greek text and manuscript variants fluctuate between masculine and neuter pronouns.

10 [18] I will come to you: indwelling, not parousia.

11 [22] Judas, not the Iscariot: probably not the brother of Jesus in ⇒ Mark 6:3 // ⇒ Matthew 13:55 or the apostle named Jude in ⇒ Luke 6:16 but Thomas (see the note on ⇒ John 11:16), although other readings have “Judas the Cananean.”

              Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition (c) 2010,
1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington D.C. and are used
by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part
of the New American Bible
may be reproduced in any form without permission in
writing from the copyright owner.

 

 

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