Introit: (Psalm 98) O sing unto the Lord a new song, alleluia: for he hath done marvellous things, alleluia: in the sight of the nations hath he shewed his righteousness, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. Ps. With his own right hand, and with his holy arm: hath he gotten himself the victory.
Collect: O Almighty God, who alone canst order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men: grant unto thy people, that they may love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise; that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed, where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
OT Lesson: And in that day thou shalt say, O Lord, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord God is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation. And in that day shall ye say, Praise the Lord, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted. Sing unto the Lord; for he hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth. Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee. (Isaiah 12.1-6)
Alleluia. (Ps 118) The right hand of the Lord bringeth mighty things to pass: the right hand of the Lord hath exalted me. Alleluia.
Epistle: Dearly beloved: Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1.17-21)
Alleluia. (Rom 6) Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more: death hath no more dominion over him. Alleluia.
The Holy Gospel: At that time: Jesus said unto his disciples: I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgement: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; of judgement, because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. [All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.] (St John 16.5-15)
Today’s Gospel is again taken from Our Lord’s final discourse with His disciples at the Last Supper. In last Sunday’s Gospel, He warns them of His departure, and the sorrow it will involve, but reassures them that there will be a purpose in that suffering—it will be like labour pains, giving birth to a new form of life. In today’s Gospel, He explains more precisely the nature of that new life. The departure of the visible, bodily presence of Christ, first through death, and then by His Ascension, although it would entail great sorrow for them, would be the beginning of a new and living relationship with God. Thus, today’s readings set before us the essence of the Easter season: suffering and resurrection and transition from worldliness to new life in the Spirit.
“It is expedient for you that I go away,” Jesus says, “for if I go not away, the Paraclete will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” The Greek word, παράκλητος or “paraclete,” literally means one called alongside, and its most usual reference is to a legal advocate—someone who speaks on your behalf and in your defence. “Comforter” is the familiar King James word, but in the sense of “fortifier” or “supporter,” rather than “consoler” (although the Spirit does that, too). So Jesus is telling His disciples that only by His departure will they be able to know the real and eternal presence of God in their lives, through the power, the support, the communication of the Holy Spirit. So long as Jesus was physically present with them, they would continue to know Him only in an external way—a great teacher and miracle-worker, a martyr, perhaps a messiah, but nothing more. Only by His departure would that become a deeper, spiritual relationship. He says, in effect, “the Holy Spirit will actually take all that I have taught, and all that I am about to do, and apply it to you—infuse it into your lives. When the Holy Spirit comes to you, I won’t just be standing next to you—I will be in you, and you will be inMe!”
He then goes on to speak of the effects of this new spiritual relationship: “When he is come he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgement: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; of judgement, because the prince of this world is judged.” To know God through the Holy Spirit is to have a new and significantly different worldview; sin and righteousness and judgement are no longer seen in terms of worldly standards and authorities. As mentioned in a previous reflection, especially in St John’s Gospel, sin is essentially unbelief—a rejection of the revealed truth of God in Jesus Christ, while righteousness is obedience to that truth. When God’s truth is obeyed, the basis of judgement will no longer be a worldly standard, but a heavenly one, “because the prince of this world is judged,” and proven false. The Holy Spirit will be the living guide to all that is true, because He is “the Spirit of truth.”
“What is truth?” asked Pilate at Christ’s trial. That has been the perennial question since the dawn of the human race. For many today, truth is relative, nebulous, ever-changing, purely personal and subjective—the only truth is “my truth,” and only “for this moment.” But is that really our only standard? “What is truth?” The Gospels show us that the better question might be, “Who is truth?” for Jesus says earlier in this same discourse, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me (John 14.6).” The truth, then, is not some abstract philosophical concept, but a Person. The truth of God is fully revealed in the Person of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. That is the Christian Faith. “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak … He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”Just as Our Lord never sought His own glory, but was always seeking to glorify the Father, so the Holy Spirit never seeks His own glory, but always points us to Jesus and seeks to glorify Him. The Spirit shines the light of Christ into the hearts of sinners and turns our eyes to the eternal truth of God. But, in pointing people to Christ for righteousness, the Spirit also reveals judgement upon those who refuse His light, preferring to dwell in the shadows. The Spirit’s job is to guide Christ’s people—collectively, not individually—into truth—God’s Truth; not following “the sundry and manifold changes of the world,” but loving “the thing which Thou commandest.” Our lives find their truth and meaning in God’s engagement with our humanity through the Son and by the Spirit. As St James says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth.”
As the Body of Christ we need each other in order to function in the way He intended, but to do so we have to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, rather than pursuing our own ways and then trying to claim them as the work of the Spirit. In this regard, we need the whole of the Church Catholic—both our brothers and sisters here on earth (the Church Militant), AND those who have gone before us and are now part of the Church Triumphant—whom the same Spirit led into truth before us. The Spirit unites us in Christ’s Body, and when He guides us into truth, it is specifically into Christ’s truth—into God’s eternal truth. Those “good gifts” we now enjoy have been given by God to help us tend towards Him. James continues, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of wickedness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.” We influence our neighbours primarily by the example of our lives. Thus as Christians we must strive to remove sin and all its root causes from our lives. We are then able to receive the Gospel, “the ingrafted Word.” Faith is not a natural attainment of human endeavour, but the work of the Holy Spirit—a divine gift planted in our hearts—but we must willingly cooperate with it, being “doers of the Word, and not hearers only.”
“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord God is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation (Is 12.2-3).” In John chapter 7 Jesus says: “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” And, John adds, “this he spake of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive (7.37-39).” With His physical departure from this world, Christ will send the Holy Spirit to guide us into that truth which leads to eternal life. We have been “brought to new birth by the word of truth” through God’s gift of grace, and we live in that Word of truth by the Spirit of truth. If we would be a Church full of spiritual life and vitality, we need first to be people steeped in the truth of the Word of God which Jesus declares to us and applies to our hearts through the Holy Spirit. If we want to transform our world, the power to do so comes only as we first allow the Spirit to transform our own lives. If we are to be bearers of the light of Christ, we must live the Gospel each and every day. New birth… new life… the Paschal mystery within us.
Cry out and shout, O inhabitant of Zion: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.
Si Kristo ay nabuhay!
Christ is risen!
Collect: O Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know thy Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may stedfastly follow his steps in the way that leadeth to eternal life; through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
“The God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13.20-21)”