John 15.26 – 16.4
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.
‘I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me. But I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them.
‘I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.’
Today’s reading contains words of great foreboding: an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God.
There are many ways of killing someone. There is the obvious bringing about of the extinction of life, but there is also the killing of the spirit. In this latter version, we are left breathing and moving, but we do so without meaning or purpose. This latter way of existing in this world is often described as a ‘fate worse than death’. The loss of hope drains us of all that we consider to be of value as we eke out our daily existences. This is a world that many consider to be their reality in these modern, sceptical days.
Over the last year we have come to understand in a more profound way the value of human interaction and physical proximity. During times of lockdown and isolation, many have felt hope drain from their lives as they have remained locked in their homes for fear of infection, illness and, perhaps, premature death. Many of us have survived these days by clinging on to our faith in Jesus Christ. But the secular world has striven to hammer at our doors, taking advantage of the negativity in which we have been enveloped. In the name of ‘progress’, and often described as ‘being for our own good’, secular forces seem to have been attacking the life of faith from every angle. Alongside the self-doubt that strikes even the most committed believer, politicians, the media, the world of commerce and those who would bombard us with their secular ‘wisdom’ have attacked the Church consistently in recent days. Sometimes it has felt as though even the Church has begun attacking itself with talk of irrelevancy, hypocrisy and mis-management.
In today’s reading we hear of Jesus’ warning of such days as the ones we seem to be living through. In today’s reading we hear of Christians living in a world where their very existence is threatened, where their extinction is celebrated. But, Jesus’ message is not just one of doom and gloom! Jesus also says: I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling.
This week, as we continue to journey through the joyous season of Easter, we will celebrate Christ’s Ascension to his place at God’s right hand. Then, in just another ten days, we will celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit. Also, on the day after the Feast of the Ascension we will remember St Matthias, the one who was called to replace Judas Iscariot in the company of the apostles.
We should not be surprised that those who espouse Jesus Christ as their risen Lord and Saviour should feel attacked and dispirited at this time. Christians have much to celebrate in these days. The secular world seems to see that joy and try to beat it down, to celebrate as they worship their ‘gods’ by decrying ours.
Let us thank the one and only true God that he foresaw the dangers and threats that would confront us. Let us pray that we might not only hear his words, but also take them to heart and be strengthened by them. Let us pray that we may always have the joy of this season in our hearts as we walk the path of Christ.