Homily for the Sixth Sunday of Easter (Year A)

Here is a translation of my homily for this Sunday:

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (Joh 14, 15) We hear these words in the middle of the great departing speech of Jesus, meant to comfort his disciples before he leaves them. But here we could almost doubt whether this speech is actually a speech of comfort, or rather an exhortation. Christ says “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (Joh 14, 15) and he will ask for the gift of the spirit, and again he says, “he who loves me will be loved by my Father.” (Joh 14, 21) It sounds as though the gift of the spirit, and God's love for us, depends on our love for him, depends on our keeping the commandments. But what about when we make mistakes, if we at some point don't keep Jesus' commandments, if we fail in love? Will we then be no longer loved by the Father? And this is supposed to be a joyful message? What is up with this?

While not entirely off the mark, this would be a misunderstanding of the Gospel message. The Gospel surely presents us here with a call to love, a call that can be, and often is challenging. But above all, it presents us with a gift. In this incredibly complex web of loving and being loved, giving and receiving, a friendship is depicted that actually exceeds all description. Jesus is telling us: God is not a vending machine, in which we throw requests from time to time to get something from him. He is not a fundamental energy of love, that is simply there and radiates blindly, without any interaction. He is a personal lover, and offers us not only his love, but also friendship. This is the great message of the Gospel: we are invited to be friends with God himself! And friendship is always a mutual relationship, which must be accepted and fostered.

Friendship means meeting each other, sharing experiences with each other, spending time together. If I were to never chat with my friends, never do anything with them, never communicate with them, our friendship would gradually dissolve. Here Jesus makes a truly great promise. He promises that this meeting with him and his Father is possible, even after he has gone from us. “He who loves me… I will manifest myself to him.” (Cf. Joh 14:21(He will remain with us, and we shall even see him. “

„The world will see me no more, but you will see me.” (Joh 14:19).

This meeting with Christ occurs in different ways. We meet him in the daily contact with one another. We will all, everyone of us, be surprised and astonished how truly, how literally Christ meant, “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” (Mat 25, 40). We meet Christ through faith and in the power of the Holy Spirit, who “remains with us and will be in us” (Cf. Joh 14, 17), as we have heard today in the Gospel. We also meet him in prayer.

In a special way we encounter Christ in the celebration of the Eucharist. There is fulfilled in a special manner Jesus' words of comfort: “You will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” (Joh 14, 20). In this celebration we anticipate the future, actually unimaginable meeting that “God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Cor 2:9). In this life we will never wholly reach the peace and happiness that we really desire, but when we receive Jesus lovingly in the Eucharist, we already participate in a mysterious fashion in this infinite happiness. We can have an inkling what it means to be embraced by an infinite love that never abandons us and that also unites us most closely to one another. Let us pray for the grace to ever more realize and appreciate this gift of the Eucharist, this veiled encounter with Jesus Christ, and thereby to grow in friendship with him.

Pope Benedict to the Pontifical Biblical Commission

On May 2 Pope Benedict XVI delivered a short message to the Pontifical Biblical Commission on the occasion of its plenary assembly, which meets to discuss the inspiration and truth of Sacred Scripture. (At the time of writing this post, an English translation of the message has not yet been posted on the Vatican's website, so the link is to the original Italian.)

Taking up themes of the Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, the pope affirms the necessity of considering the inspiration of Scripture in order to rightly interpret it: "Inspiration, as God's activity, brings it about that the Word of God is expressed in the human words. Consequently, the theme of inspiration is 'decisive for an adequate approach to the Scriptures and their correct interpretation,' (Verbum Domini, n. 19) Indeed, an interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures that disregards or forgets their inspiration does not take account of their most important and precious characteristic, their coming from God."

The pope further recalls the connection between inspiration and truth: " "The Synod Fathers also stressed the link between the theme of inspiration and that of the truth of the Scriptures. A deeper study of the process of inspiration will doubtless lead to a greater understanding of the truth contained in the sacred books.' (Verbum Domini, n. 19)… Through his Word, God wills to communicate the whole truth about himself and about his plan of salvation for humanity. The commitment to discover more and more the truth of the sacred books is therefore equivalent to seeking to know better God and the mystery of his salvific will."

Finally, the Pope affirms the need to interpret individual passages in the context of the whole of Scripture in order to correctly understand them. ""Finally I would like to just mention that in a good hermeneutics it is not possible to apply the criterion of inspiration in a mechnical manner, as of an absolute truth, extracting a single phrase or expression. The plan in which it is possible to perceive Sacred Scripture as the Word of God is that of the unity of God's history, in a totality in which individual elements recriprocally shed light on its other and mutually open understanding of each other."

When the Pope here speaks against interpreting individual passages as containing a truth that is "absolute", this does not mean that they only contain truth in a qualified sense, but that they contain a truth that is "relative", in the sense of standing in a relation to the whole truth about God, in relation to the whole of the Scriptures.