IF YOU LOVE ME, PROVE IT!
Sixth Sunday of Easter (C)
My dear encountered couples:
My dear friends: A series of film roles as wife and mother has given actress Ann Archer a reputation as super-spouse. In the movie “Fatal Attraction” she played the role of the terrorized but brave wife who enabled her husband to withstand the violent attack of an obsessed mistress. In the Television play “Leap of Faith” she portrayed a housewife who successfully coped with cancer – not giving up when hope seemed useless, and seeking out alternative therapies with determination and courage.
The super-spouse image has been hers in other roles as well. But when it comes to real life, Ann Archer does not lay claim to being super-spouse. She is married with two sons. In a recent interview, she said of herself: “I am as rattled as anyone who is trying to run a profession and be married with two children. Perfection is out of the question.”
And we can all relate with that. Perfection is out of the question. Being rattled, at least from time to time is the reality of our lives. Today’s gospel passage is about keeping Jesus’ word, and about peace and joy. It speaks to our experience of being rattled in daily life and it gives us hope and promise.
In our own lives, a disturbing rattling experience can sometimes come suddenly from a completely unexpected source. A simple car accident that happens in a split second can disrupt people’s lives for months and years. A simple error by a service man or a retail store can cause us annoyance and trouble and test our patience for months to come. A fire or a burglary can disturb and upset someone’s sense of basic security and leave him or her fearful and uneasy for a long time.
Moreover, there are plenty of ordinary things that rattle and disturb us and make us edgy. And it’s very easy to think of examples. For instance, you or one of the children, have just had a routine medical check-up, and the doctor’s office call to ask you to come in for a talk and then tells you that you or your children have a serious health problem that needs hospitalization the soonest possible.
Another example is when your parents or relatives or friends begin to put pressure on you to do things their way. Or your job is threatened. Or your finances begin to be doubtful. Or anyone of a thousand common events begins to disturb the tranquility and order of life. t’s surprising how much these worries and stresses can rattle and disturb us. We don’t think as clearly. We begin to act of impulse – with poor judgment. We have to work at remaining cool and clear.
Today’s first reading is about a disagreement in the early Church. There was contention and disputes. People were disturbed and unsettled. Only overtime with meetings, discussions and compromises was the problem worked out and dealt with.
Finding a solution was complex process. But for the early Christians – the process was a sign of the Spirit at work. From a community quite rattled and disturbed – they came to be a community of peace.
And the Gospel reading explains to us how this process works. It begins from Jesus’ requirement that his disciples keep his word and it finds its dynamics in the promise he made. Jesus’ word is that his disciples “should love one another.” Jesus’ promise is that “if we keep his word, if we love one another, the Holy Spirit will be with us, will be at home in us.”
The comfortable presence of the Spirit, however, has its reward. It results in peace and gladness. Peace is the opposite of being rattled and afraid. Gladness is the quiet joy that comes from not being alone, from knowing that the Spirit is present to us.
But we should not read the gospel words in too placid a context. Remember where all this was happening – at the Last Supper. The disciples were in a disturbed state; they were so afraid. Trouble was brewing and they’d all soon be rattled enough to run away and hide. Jesus himself was facing condemnation and death. And even he would not maintain his cool. Soon he would be flat on his face in the garden – in an agony of fear and a sweat of blood. Yet his promise remains. If we keep his word, if we are true to the love that he requires of us – his peace and his joy will be ours through the Spirit who will come to be with us.
Sisters and brothers: One thing for sure is that – none of us is going to get through life handling things perfectly: Perfectly in control of our emotions and fears, perfectly sure of what is the right thing to do. Be sure that at least from time to time, we too are going to be rattled. Sometimes there is nothing to do but sweat it out, to face the difficulties and to see them through.
Even in such conditions – faith calls us to keep Jesus’ word, to love one another. That’s always basically important in every situation. Not our reputation. Not what people will think. Not how it will affect our job promotion. Not winning. Not avoiding difficult consequences.
The primary most important thing is that we care, that we place people first, that we love one another. In trouble we have to keep our cool and think things through – but the basis for our thinking is to be Jesus’ word that we love and care for each other.
It’s a tall order. Sometime, loving and caring means that we miss out, come in second, or to suffer some material setback. But the gospel is also a promise. Peace – a calming of our anxieties and a quieting of our rattled state. Plus, gladness – a kind of quiet confidence that comes from the presence of the Spirit.
Of course, we won’t know it till we try it – but at this time of the year as approach the feast of Pentecost – we need to revive our faith in the calming presence of the Holy Spirit, who enables us to take second thoughts and to pray for the grace we need when we are rattled and disturbed.