Sixth Sunday of Easter
To Learn We Must Reflect; to Understand the Word We Must Ponder Deeply
First Reading (Acts 15: 1-2, 22-29): Gentile believers need not be circumcised
Second Reading (Rev 21:10-14, 22-23): God is the temple
Gospel (Jn 14:23-29): The Holy Spirit helps us to understand the words of Jesus
-“Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous”(1) (Con-fucian Analects, Wei Chang, Chapter 15)
“Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words: and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me. I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. “ (Jn 14: 23-26) .
One of the important tasks of the Holy Spirit has been to enable the disciples to 'remem-ber' or to 'recollect' all that Jesus had told them.
When the disciples encountered various setbacks in life they recalled what Jesus had taught them. They made use of his teachings to direct their lives and help them make im-portant decisions. So their faith grew and matured. Jesus' words had been internalised and had become their motivation and direction for life.
In John's first Epistle he describes the disciples as they went out to spread Jesus' teaching: “What we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life – this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it – we declare to you what we have seen and heard.” (1 Jn 1: 1-3) This is what we mean by 'pondering' over the Word of God. The initial hearing may not be sufficient to allow the Word to become nourishment for life.
Faith is not an object or an article. For example, we can pass a ball-pen around ten times or a hundred, and it remains a ball-pen. If we spread the Word around, it will cer-tainly change. It is like a story, it will not remain the same once it has been told several times. Faith, however, in the process of being handed down , may change, not in spirit, but in the external form and method of promulgation.
Let us take the example of 'imitating Jesus'. When Jesus forgave those who had cruci-fied him, he prayed to his heavenly Father saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Lk 23: 34). Of course we must imitate Jesus, but we need not be hanged on the cross or speak the same words that Jesus spoke.
There are many ways to forgive others and a variety of circumstances. After children have bickered with each other, by the next day they often have forgotten all about it. That is 'forgiving' and 'forgetting'. Parents and children disagree over something, and a warm greeting the following morning is sufficient to mollify yesterday’s unpleasantness. If two Christians sincerely and warmly greet each other at the Kiss of Peace during the Eucharist, grudges and ill feelings may dissolve altogether.
If we but remember Jesus' words and recall his example, we surely can find our own way to express forgiveness. The spirit is the same, but the style and content can take many forms. This is the work of the Holy Spirit.
Scripture written more than two thousand years ago will not tell us about the actual re-alities of today's society nor predict in detail the misfortunes we encounter now. Still less will it provide us with concrete and detailed solutions to our problems. We must re-flect over and over, think of different analogies, reflect in quiet on the example of Jesus and absorb his spirit. Then we will internalize his teachings and allow his words to be-come alive in our hearts. We can then discover our own unique way to meet life’s chal-lenges. When we have reached this stage, our faith life has become mature, with a ma-turity that is moved and enkindled by the Spirit. Then we need to 'recall' the words of Jesus and make them our very own.
Confucius said, “Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous.” (1) Confucius put equal emphasis on 'learning' and 'thinking.' He maintained that if we only study from books and do not reflect we will become confused. But it is also dangerous to fantasize and not study from books.
Our life span is short and our experience is limited. It is impossible for anyone to experi-ence personally every event or discover everything. We need to learn, and learn from other people, from Nature, and even from the history and culture of other nations.
Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He has the words of truth and the words of eter-nal life. He tells us of the rich content of our lives, points out the right direction for life, and more, leads us safely to eternal life. We need to learn more and more from Jesus.
Merely to learn however is not enough. That will not automatically make learning be-come part of ourselves. But if we know how to reflect also, we will gradually allow the experience and wisdom of others to transform us and become our own wisdom.
In this respect, we need to learn how we can grow by alternating between reflection and implementation. For instance, I realize I must love others, so I carry out this love in my life. Having put it into practice, I have a deeper understanding of how to love others. So in the process of loving others, I become more enthused and advance one step further
in my understanding of true love.
In this process the Holy Spirit plays a decisive role. The Spirit enables us to put into practice all we have learned from Jesus, and in the practice deepen our understanding of Jesus’ words. It is a process that spirals up and up, and as it continues our faith life gradually matures. The faith we have learned and heard from Jesus becomes our own faith.