“These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you. But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” John 16:1-15
I am going to remind you of our narrative setting today as well as flesh out a bit more how Catholics should not be surprised when the world treats you as an offensive and unwholesome intruder. In addition to that we will take note of our Lord’s departure out of this world, what he calls his “going my way to him that sent me,” which we know is his return to his Father and next how all that puts into motion his sending of the Holy Spirit from the Father. So first of all lets keep in mind all that has been said over the last few weeks is not a bunch of abstract concepts when this is actually Jesus’ farewell address and his completely transparent intention was to provide comfort and understanding to his disciples who were about to abandon him to prince of this world. Please note, in the last few hours before his crucifixion, the complete absence of self-pity in Jesus’ tone and words, as well as the absence of moralistic shaming or blaming. There is none of that, “How could you do this to me?” whining we frequently hear welling up inside of us when we think we have been handled unfairly. Not even to Judas does he make the slightest complaint but rather he offers him the “sop,” a choice morsel, from his own hand. What I want you to see is that from chapter 13 onward the narrative unfolds entirely within the boundary of an upper floor room rented for the purpose of celebrating the Passover with his disciples and his intention is to impart the queen of the sacraments — the Eucharist — to his Church as well as to provide immediate comfort and understanding — not full understanding, but immediate and sufficient comfort and understanding for what will take place before sunrise on the day we call Good Friday. And he accomplishes this with not the least bit of self-pity, but with restraint, composure, grace and determination. What he is determined to accomplish at this moment is that his disciples should grasp that, by being his disciples, they are enemies of the world.
“These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.”
The world, that aggregate of people who form a culture of families, tribes, and nations as atheists, is enthralled by hatred, a present hatred of Jesus which he makes perfectly clear is equivalent to hatred for his Father, as well as a future of hatred aimed at the disciples of Jesus. And by atheistic I mean specifically those who do not believe in Jesus which is equivalent to not believing in his Father and the Holy Trinity. The world is not absent a god, but it is a god in their own image:
“the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.”
A god of their own understanding cannot save anyone, because a god is an illusion; only the God who is God, the Blessed Trinity can save. Belief in a god of their own understanding only encourages the world’s perception of Jesus and his disciples as unwholesome, corrupting, and hostile to good citizenship. Atheism as I am using that word, and as I believe Jesus and his Church uses that word, identifies those people and aggregates who reject Jesus which is also to reject his Father and the Blessed Trinity. And the Gospel of John records the pervasiveness of that atheism throughout Israel from the heart of the Temple to the small outlying villages sprinkled about country side and in a few hours from the time of Jesus spoke these words, the Temple, and the good country people of Israel will join forces with Caesar and nail Christ to the Cross. Their mutual perception that Jesus is an unwholesome and corrupting man is the center of their common life and it is clear from here on out that there is no peace to be made between Jesus and the World. This is the final, the decisive battle between the children of Light and the children of darkness but know this: the children of Light are in this struggle only by virtue of our participation in Jesus. Why? Because Jesus, abandoned to the children of darkness by all his friends, will accomplish this task in his perfect humanity, trusting and loving his Father to the very end and loving his own in spite of their and our faint-hearted, self-indulgent, self-centered behavior. He determined too that we would not remain such a state of cowardice and that once we made contact with reality, the really real, through grace of the Holy Spirit, we too would follow him to the Cross. St. Paul summed this up for us when he put it to the Galatians:
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
Though all our good deeds and good intentions, all our politics and our collective work for justice do not stand a chance against the prince of this world and the children of darkness, we will triumph. Because our trust is not in children of Light but in He who is Light Itself, Light of Light, God of God, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior who comforted and cheered his disciples that last evening:
“But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you.”
“These things” refers to the aggression of the World against Christ. When he says, “when the time shall come,” he means three moments of time when the blows of his enemies will fall down upon him and his Church. The first moment of time was rapidly approaching when Jesus would be abandoned, arrested, scourged, and crucified — all that by 9:00 in the morning. The second moment “when the time shall come,” refers to the rapid persecutions that came upon the infant Church in Jerusalem, beginning when a mob of Jerusalemites stoned Stephen to death outside the Temple which lead to Saul’s campaign against the Church, then the killing of James and the arrest of Peter all of which culminated in an exodus of Christians from Jerusalem and their scattering beyond Israel and on into Asia. The third moment “when the time shall come,” is when it comes to each Christian man and woman in his or her own life time. The moment of decision comes to you, when you, like Jesus, feel yourself abandoned, when you are perceived as unwholesome, unloving and corrupting because of your loyalty to Jesus:
Though the cause of evil prosper, yet the truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong;
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.
Of course none of us are up to this task if all we have going for us are our good deeds, our good intentions or even all our collective good deeds and good intentions. But that is not all we have going for us:
“I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.”
This then is the mission of the Holy Spirit: to guide the Church in to a perfect understanding and obedience to Christ so that we may by word and deed be his loyal and loving witnesses in the world. The Holy Spirit enables the Church to do God’s will: to worship Christ our God in the Sacrament of the Eucharist knowing that in that moment of witness we are most perfectly who we are and we most perfectly glorify Jesus and his Father through the Holy Spirit.