God’s Word and the Spirit of Truth

John 16: 12-15
Acts 17: 15, 22 — 18: 1 / Ps 148: 1-2, 11-14

I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth.
(John 16:12)

The Holy Spirit is our Guide
To learn God’s ways and share His Truth;
May Jesus’ Name be magnified
When we begin to bear much fruit.

Jesus said, “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will declare to you the things that are coming. He will bring glory to me because He will take from what is mine and declare it to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.” (John 16:12-15)

Reflection

Today’s Gospel passage leaves us to ponder deeply on the roles that the Second and Third Persons of the Trinity played and continue to play in our enlightenment and salvation. Jesus is the revelation of God the Father. He said, ”If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him” (Jn.14:7), and “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (Jn.14:11). But it would be the Holy Spirit who would come to deepen the apostles’ understanding of our Lord’s revelation. In the course of Church history, the power of the same Advocate would lead all the saints in their individual missions to spread the Christian faith all over the world. He continues to inspire us today.

It was the Holy Spirit Who inspired the writings of all the books in the Holy Bible, which the Magisterium of our Church had acknowledged as the Word of God, the “Living Word”, or simply, the Truth, because it was inspired by the Spirit of Truth. No one has ever found any mistake or falsehood in the Bible. It is totally trustworthy and reliable. It is the testament of God’s will and plan of salvation. We are all urged to read the Bible, and meditate on God’s Word as often as we can, because, with the Spirit’s guidance, it is where we come to know all about our Lord, Jesus Christ. His lessons in the Bible lead us to a deeper understanding of the Holy Spirit’s work. St. Paul wrote: “In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. . . . The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for, ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct Him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.” (1Cor.2:10-12,14-16)

The Bible is rich with passages of life. Whenever we come across verses there that inspire us, let us memorize them so that they may live in our heart. Jesus said, “The Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you” (Jn.16:15). His ‘Living Word’ will protect us from danger, shield us from temptation, and transform us into a new creation of the Spirit. We will come to know more intimately the living God, and enjoy His gifts, like wisdom, patience, fortitude, love, and the beauty of life in the Spirit!

We praise and thank You, Father God, for the life of Jesus that we have found in the Bible, as inspired by Your Holy Spirit. His Word has transformed us; may the Holy Spirit sustain our faith all the days of our lives. Amen.

Convicted by the Holy Spirit

John 16: 5-11
Acts 16:22-34 / Ps 138

. . . it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.
(John 16:7)

The power of sin is the absence
Of the Holy Spirit in my heart;
There’s joy within with Your presence
Here, dear Lord, never again depart.

(Jesus said,) “But now I am going to the One who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. When He comes, He will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation: sin, because people do not believe in me; righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and condemnation, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.” (John 16:5-11)

Reflection

Jesus was nearing the end of His discourse, and was aware of the deep sorrow and anxiety that His apostles were going through when they learned that He was going to leave them soon. It was important for them to realize that His leaving was necessary so that the Holy Spirit could come in His place, to empower them in their mission. And when the Advocate came, He would “convict the world in regard to sin, in regard to righteousness, and in regard to condemnation.”

The word “convict” as translated from the Greek form also meant “convince”. Jesus was making a prophecy that when the Holy Spirit came and empowered the apostles, they would be able to enlighten the Jews that they had committed a grave sin by not believing in Jesus Christ as the Son of God (as He claimed), and crucifying Him for the crime of blasphemy. In fact, as Jesus predicted, after Simon Peter’s preaching on Pentecost, the Jews were “cut to the heart, and asked Peter and the other apostles, ‘What are we to do, brothers?’ (Acts 2:37). And Peter told them, “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). “Those who accepted his message were baptized and about three thousand people were converted that day.” (2:41)

It was only when Jesus had resurrected from the dead and ascended into heaven that the people were convinced of the righteousness of all His teachings, and in fact inspired and motivated His followers to spread His Good News throughout the world. But the early Christians would not have been able to accomplish their missions and brave the persecutions without the power of the Holy Spirit.

It is also by the power of the Holy Spirit that the “prince of the world” has been condemned. Sin no longer holds any power on the repentant sinners, because all renewed Christians are now aware that we will face the Judgment Seat of God on the final day of reckoning. Through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we are now involved in this spiritual battle of winning souls for Christ. This includes working hard for the success of “Catchfire 2017” here in Davao, where five communities will come together on June 4 in worship, songs, dance, witnessing, healing, and celebration of the Holy Mass in honor of the Holy Spirit. Please pray for the success of this mass worship on Pentecost Sunday.

Grant us, dear Lord, the grace to be able to discern Your Word in the Scriptures. We thank You for the presence of Your Holy Spirit in our commitment to bring others to Your flock. Amen.

The World’s Hatred

John 15: 18-21
Acts 16: 1-10 / Ps 100: 1b-2. 3. 5

I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
(John 15:19)

How can the choice be hard to make,
Between life or death, wealth or grace?
Let us not make the grave mistake
To love this world and lose the race.

(Jesus said), “If the world hates you, know that it hated me first. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, `No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. And they will do all this to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me.” (John 15: 18-21)

Reflection

There is no gray area here. We cannot have one and enjoy the other as well. As Jesus so clearly pointed out, “No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Mt.6:24). We also read in the first letter of John: “Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). St. James echoes the same message: “Do you not know that to be a lover of the world means enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wants to be a lover of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).

What is the “world” being referred to here? It is everything in this life that appeals to our carnal desires, or those “of the flesh”. St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans: “For the concern of the flesh is hostility towards God; it does not submit to the law of God, nor can it; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7-8). It is only when we have learned to “crucify” our material or carnal concerns and detach ourselves from the pleasures of the world that the Spirit of God can dwell in us.

Ultimately (if we still remain bull-headed), God may take the initiative, and that is when we will experience the pain of purification. Many times in our brotherhood’s assemblies, we have heard testimonies of personal conversions to a more meaningful relationship with God, but only after the speaker(s) experienced a reversal of fortunes, like bankruptcy, a life-threatening illness, imprisonment, or even the loss of a loved one. This is the other kind of ‘persecution’ that our Lord is referring to in this Gospel passage.

St. Paul warns us: “Do not be conformed to this world” (Rom. 12:2). The world is Satan’s domain (his playground, really). At every opportunity he lures us into the false belief that our worldly concerns take precedence over everything in our life. Even above our moral standards and spiritual goal. “But do not be led astray,” St. Paul says, “Bad company corrupts good morals” (1Cor. 15:33). Instead, let the Word of God guide us always in the proper conduct of our lives, and the Holy Spirit will shield us from the evils of this world.

Loving Father, we thank You for the guidance and inspiration that we find in Your Word, the Bible. Grant us the grace to persevere in conforming ourselves to all the values taught by our Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospel, so that Your Spirit may always abide in us. Amen.

To Go and Bear Fruit

John 15: 12-17
Acts 15:22-31 / Psa 57

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. . .
(John 15:16)

Whatever we ask in Jesus’ name,
He promised God our Father will give,
As long as in His love we remain,
And bear fruit for others to believe.

(Jesus continued), “My commandment is this: Love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This I command you: Love one another.” (John 15:12-17)

Reflection

Everyone who has committed his life to follow Jesus is hand-picked by the Lord to perform specific tasks that contribute to the benefit and well-being of the Church or our community. When we received our appointments to serve in the first Christian Life Program of our new Chapter, we had no qualms about contributing our time and individual skills; in fact many of us accepted the assignments with robust enthusiasm. This could only have been the influence of the Holy Spirit.

“Go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.” The impact of the dedication, sacrifice, and love that all the members of the service team showed had surely borne fruit for years to come in the lives of the sponsored participants who in turn had also become active members of our community after their formation.

“Everything you ask the Father in My Name He will give you.” Yes, indeed! The Lord did not hold back on anything we prayed for in our nine-day novena masses before the start of the seminar: discernment in selecting our staff, speakers and discussion group leaders; coordination among all working committees; making do with a shoe-string budget; good weather; good health and perseverance for all team members; the appropriate venue for our nine-Saturday seminars; and most important of all, a bountiful harvest in the number of participants. Who could ask for more?

It is simply because of our love for Jesus that we are able to carry out the work of evangelization in our community. As He had shown us in Calvary, His brand of love is not for the faint-hearted, as it entails a great amount of responsibility—as it is stated in our mission statement – “to take responsible care of all entrusted to us.” Love of this kind is what makes us true friends of Jesus Christ. And this kind of friendship is what we are sharing with our future members whom we are shepherding in our BCLP. In this service we will have obeyed the Lord’s command to “go and bear fruit.”

Thank You, Lord, for this opportunity of being able to serve my community, and for increasing my faith even more as You showed me Your miracle of love. Amen.

Serving with Love

John 15: 9-11
Acts 15:7-21 / Ps 96:1-3,10

As the Father loves me, so I also love you; remain in my love.
(John 15:9)

Your Word, O God, is the beacon
That dispelled the darkness of sin;
With Your love there is no reason
The marketplace we cannot win.

Jesus told His apostles, “As the Father loves me, so I also love you; remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:9-11)

Reflection

Have you ever wondered what motivated all the saints and martyrs like St. Paul, St. Peter, and the apostles to dedicate their entire lives to the point of death for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel? In some cases, in the midst of persecution, they seemed to be in a state of joy. Instead of fear for their imminent death, they welcomed it like a loving friend. It was simply God’s love, the love that conquers all that fired their motivation to stand up for their faith. Since they had all been true to God’s commandments, and remained in Christ’s love, they were all immersed completely in His joy, displacing all fears, doubts and even physical pains. “Death had lost its sting,” because it became a doorway to eternal bliss in God’s kingdom.

The kind of love that our Lord Jesus speaks of is a special grace that the Father gives to those who are steadfast in their obedience and in their faith. We can never outdo God in love because His love is without measure. Our love for others is merely a reflection of God’s love, and a natural response to His boundless generosity and mercy. We cannot help but give what we have already received.

In today’s first reading, Peter told his companions, “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that He accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as He did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith… We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are” (Acts 15:7-9,11). This passage is so relevant to us in our renewal community, who may be conducting a Brotherhood Christian Life Program (CLP) at this time. Here in Davao city, five renewal communities are preparing for the “Catchfire” Prayer Rally on Pentecost Sunday (June 4), where hopefully, over two thousand members will come together in praise and songs. Giving our time, effort and resources for these activities is following Jesus’ will for us to love and serve others as He has loved us.

St. Paul tells us that there is always reason for hope, since God has poured out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, Whom He has given us (Rom.5:5). Jesus proved his love for us by humbling Himself, becoming human, and even dying painfully as a sacrifice for our sins. How else can we reciprocate that love?

Lord, inflame our hearts in serving with love You and our beloved community. May our sacrifices in spreading Your Gospel messages be worthy of Your great love. Amen.

Remain in Christ Jesus

John 15: 1-8
Acts 15:1-6 / Ps 122:1-5

I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit because without me you can do nothing.
(John 15:5)

Be resolute when trials come,
Don’t let anxieties take root;
Just trust that when the Gardener’s done
His pruning will make us bear fruit.

Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does He prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit because without me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.” (John 15:1-8)

Reflection

Many members of renewal communities, who for some reason lost their zeal to serve in the community, or even attend its regular activities, also lost the fire of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Perhaps this is the message that is being imparted in John’s Gospel for those Christians who are failing to hold fast to their commitment to Jesus.

Note that our Lord mentions the word “remain” eight times in today’s Gospel reading. This is significant considering the many Christian denominations today that have “branched out” of the Catholic Church. Most of these churches do not even abide by the teachings of Jesus Christ, and the “fruitfulness” of their works can only be deemed questionable. For instance, where do their members get spiritual sustenance if they do not have the sacraments, which were instituted by our Savior Himself to be the life-giving sap that the branches derive from the Vine?

Others have left the true Vine (Jesus and His Church) in search of more “practical” forms of worship, or of a church that conforms to their idea of what religion should be. But perhaps it is because of their own inability to bear fruit that they have been “cut off from the Vine”. And how could they bear fruit when they did not remain or abide in Him? Jesus may well be talking to them when He said, “You do not have His word remaining in you, because you do not believe in the One Whom He has sent.” (John 5:38) He who lacks faith does not have God’s Word living in him.

God is the Gardener of our life. He planted us in this life, and supplies what we need. We did not have to work hard to attain His gift of faith. In fact, at the very start, we didn’t have to work for it at all. All that He required of us was to remain faithful to His Word (Christ) and be obedient to His Church. It is very much like our own children- they are God’s gift to us. We did not acquire them through hard labor. They are products of love and intimate pleasure. But we do need to take good care of them, just as we need to take care of our faith by prayers and receiving the sacraments regularly.

Father God, we acknowledge You as our Divine Provider, and praise and thank You for all the blessings in our life. You have cut away all our iniquities, and pruned us with trials to make us strong and productive. Let your Holy Spirit continue to empower and guide us to abide in Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ forever. Amen.