- Fr. John Jennings
Our Sacred Stories: Jesus Among Us – Living Together with Love
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...
I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.... The one who has
my commandments and keeps them is the one who love me; and the
one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and
reveal myself to them. (John 14:15-21)
A few years ago, I went to Mass in the little church of Sao Lourenco in Almancil, Portugal. What was most striking about this experience was the vibrant hospitality of the community when entering church. There was a buzz of conversation going on as people greeted old friends and shared the past week with one another. What was even more striking was the openness of the welcome we received as strangers in their midst. No one who came through the doors was left out, all were welcomed warmly. Even though we could not speak their language, we were greeted by many with smiles and gestures, even to standing up and offering their seats to us.
Such an experience of hospitality, inclusiveness and love is a revelation of the Spirit. It might appear to be natural and easy, but it demands commitment and attentiveness from a whole community. When it is present, we see the presence of the Spirit that John’s Gospel speaks of today. In such experiences we can recognize the wondrous relationship into which God invites us. To love one another, to live this love in relationships with one another is to recognize the Spirit of the risen Jesus among us.
Not long ago, our experience with the pandemic forced us into isolation. We lost our connection with the community and found ourselves very much alone, in solitude. While we often benefit from and appreciate quiet and time for ourselves, most of us need social contacts. Such lengthy isolation is not healthy for most. Certainly, our faith community suffered from the limiting of the communal gathering so important for us. We are only now slowly recovering what we lost in not gathering for Eucharist and other occasions. As the visit for Mass in Almancil illustrated, the table of the Eucharist is a community experience.
I think we often limit ourselves to seeing the Eucharist as our personal prayer time, linking us to Jesus and thus tend to seek peace, silence and our personal time with God. It is in fact, a celebration of thanksgiving by our whole community of faith. Such an occasion deserves the acknowledgement of one another with the hospitality and inclusiveness that was evident at Almancil. It is broader than personal prayer and seeks to join us with our whole community.
John 14:15-21 is part of the farewell discourses that Jesus spoke to his disciples at the Last Supper. He reached out and reassured them that although he was soon to leave them, they were not to be left alone. He asked that the Father give them another Advocate, the Spirit. Through this Spirit, Jesus remains with us, only waiting to find expression in the practical love that moves and enlivens any community – family, friendships, parish community. To be open, welcoming, inclusive is to reveal the Advocate, the Spirit among us.