Jesus said; “If you love me, you will keep my commandments and I will ask the Father to send you another Counsellor to be with you forever.”
It seems then, that in order to receive this Counsellor sent by God, we must love and obey Jesus. So, what can this mean for us today?
St John teaches us that obedience is the only test for love. It was by obedience that Jesus showed his love of God; and it’s by our obedience that we show our love of Jesus . Many people will tell you that love is all about feelings, but according to the Gospel which we’ve just heard, we’re wrong to try to measure our love of Jesus by the strength of any feelings that we might or might not have. St John never spoke of love as a feeling or an emotion. For him, love was always shown by obedience.
It’s not easy to know that you love Jesus. And this is where that difficult word, translated as “Counsellor” comes in. The word is a reference to the work of the Holy Spirit. And it’s when we begin to try to talk about the Holy Spirit that we meet all kinds of misunderstandings and difficulties.
Many Christians feel that they’re a failure in their faith and that there’s something wrong with them. They listen to others who tell them that they feel the presence of Jesus in their hearts, or maybe place great emphasis on speaking in tongues . And, because they know that their faith isn’t lived on an emotional high they think that somehow they’ve missed the point.
Perhaps they struggle with prayer, and wish that the gift of easy talk to God had been given to them. And so they tell themselves that because this hasn’t been their experience, then they must be a kind of second-class Christian. But this is a sad and painful mistake.
Because what Jesus is saying in today’s gospel, is that he recognises the difficulties of following him, and he won’t leave us to struggle with them alone.
He promises to send the Holy Spirit, to help us live the Christian life; and when he goes on to say that the world cannot recognise the Spirit , he’s pointing out that we can only see what we’re fitted to see.
An astronomer will see far more in the sky than an ordinary man. Someone who knows about art will see far more in a picture than someone who’s ignorant about these things.
What we see or get from any experience depends a great deal on what we bring to it. A person who’s removed God from their life will never listen for him, and yet it’s when we wait in prayerful expectation that God’s Holy Spirit comes to us.
This obedient, trusting, waiting love leads to the presence of God. It’s only to the man or woman who’s looking for him, that God reveals himself. It’s only to the man or woman who, in spite of failure, is reaching up, that God reaches down. Knowing God is dependent on love; and love is dependent on obedience.
When we’re obedient and open to God in this way then we’ll begin to be aware of the Holy Spirit working within us just as Jesus promised.
Perhaps we need to stop comparing ourselves and our experiences to others and start thinking more seriously about some of the things which Jesus taught. For instance, he said that just as we recognise the presence of atmospheric wind by its effects, so will we recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit by His effects.
Do you know a Christian person who’s patient, or kind, or gentle or faithful? Do you know a Christian person who’s loving or joyful or who seems to be at peace? If you do then you know a Christian in whom the Holy Spirit is powerfully at work.
Some of these men and women might well be reluctant to say that they’re the living fulfillment of the promises which Jesus made, but it’s when we begin to see with the eye of faith that we also begin to understand that they are.
As we follow Jesus in loving obedience, and as we open and prepare ourselves for him so will we become aware of the truth of his promises about the Holy Spirit. Perhaps one of the most significant times on our journey will be the realisation that we meet him most commonly within the ordinary happenings of everyday life. He’s there in every loving encounter that we experience. He’s there at that moment when a piece of Scripture suddenly takes on a deeper meaning for us. He’s there when the words of a preacher seem to be directed at us personally. He’s there when at the very moment of temptation a saying of Jesus flashes unbidden into our minds.
And so, the next time we begin to doubt some of the basic teachings of our faith; the next time we begin to entertain a strong suspicion that all this talk about the Holy Spirit is outside of our experience, then we need to remember these things; because the promises which Jesus made are for all of us.
The peace which he offers us is such that no experience of life can ever take it from us. And no sorrow, no danger no suffering can ever make it less. This is the peace which he wants to give us.
All we need to do is to accept it. Amen.