I always find it interesting to look at the verses that are omitted in the lectionary Gospel reading. As you will have realized if you looked at the verses listed in your Missal and Missalettes, there are at least 11 verses missing. This discussion starter is based on today’s reading including the omitted verses.
For me, the Gospel of John provides a lens through which to view the words and actions of Jesus in other parts of Scripture. In the Gospels of the previous weeks, we have been told to love one another and to abide in God’s love and that we are Christ’s own if we follow his commandment. Further, that he asks this of us not as a Master but as a friend. In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that following him will cost us for a time; that love will cost us for a time. Jesus also tells us that when he is no longer physically here, we will not be alone because the Spirit of Truth is being sent to guide us.
The previous readings emphasize: love- as Jesus’ commandment and love- as the way to follow Jesus. With today’s Gospel introduces the theme, Truth “as revealed” will be enhanced with Truth as “ongoing revelation”.
In this reading, abiding in God’s love, on the one hand and acting out of fear or hatred, on the other, are grounded in the recognition or non-recognition of God. They are positive and negative sides of the same truth: the recognition that God is Love (and abundant life giving).
He tells us that following his path of love may result in being excluded, expelled, rejected, and persecuted even to death. Those who do this may be motivated by hatred, fear and even a belief that they are operating out of authority, truth and faithfulness to God. However, God’s love is unconditional and to preach, teach or act otherwise, is to not know, to use John’s words “the Father” or the Son. Jesus doesn’t tell us these things so that we can condemn but rather so that we can take heart and not be discouraged in following him when things look bleak, when others “put us out of the synagogue”.
He tells us these thing so that we can remember─ to use the prophet Micah’s clear and concise words─ that we are to “do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God”. This is the way of love and it is also a truth. I say a truth because Jesus tells us that there is more truth to come and that the Holy Spirit will guide us in God’s truth. Through the Holy Spirit, God’s ongoing revelation is activated and active.
If we are full of ourselves and certain that we have the whole truth, where in us can the Spirit work? We have to ask God to empty us of all the ways we try to separate ourselves from God, others and ourselves, of all that causes us to think that we are less than or better than others. Conversely, we have to ask the Holy Spirit to carve out a space in us in which set God’s outpouring love aflame in us, so that we can love as God’s loves, as Jesus asks us to love, unconditionally.