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A thirst for mercy and peace

Gospel Commentary JN 7:37-39; 20:19-23; 14:15-16, 23b-26

The celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit should be full of inspiration and life. It stands to reason that a day dedicated to the dynamic and active Spirit of God would include multiple possibilities from Scripture to be read at Mass. There are three possibilities when it comes to the Gospel passage. There is a passage for the Vigil Mass from John 7. On Sunday during the day, there is a “dealer’s choice” between John 20 and John 14.

Knowing, as we do, that any part of God’s inspired word should be taken together with the whole, it might be useful to consider something from each of the possible passages.

At the Vigil Mass (or even better, at the Extended Vigil) we hear an especially beautiful image of the Holy Spirit as a flowing river, as water to quench our deep interior thirst. Imagine the intense experience of thirst. When we are thirsty we can become very focused on that particular need. Until our thirst is satisfied we can think of nothing else. When we finally reach the longed-for drink, we can’t imagine anything better.

This Sunday we might try translating the reality of thirst until, by prayer, we understand how our soul thirsts and how it should be satisfied. “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. As Scripture says: ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him who believes in me.’ He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive.” A most helpful addition to such a prayer would be to consider that this is Jesus’ own description of the Holy Spirit, given as a prediction of his coming.

On Sunday, believers at Mass might hear a passage about the Holy Spirit that comes to us from one of the Risen Lord’s first appearances: “ ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’ ” There is so much food for prayer in this special Gospel moment. The first ministers of God’s mercy to the world were first given peace — by Jesus, the Prince of Peace. With that gift, they are sent by Jesus to bring that same peace to the world. This sharing of peace with others was not to be done simply by recalling and repeating what Jesus had said and done. The disciples of Jesus were to bring something even greater — the power of God for the forgiveness of sins. Men of peace were sent by Jesus to share his own merciful forgiveness, which is a gift that brings to us a very real peace. Come, Holy Spirit, remind us of these powerful truths! 

The third text one could hear this Sunday is from John 14. It contains a link between the two we have already seen. Jesus says: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always.” These words were spoken by Jesus on the night before he died. We can learn, with the disciples who first heard these words, that to love Jesus means to obey him. This is sometimes a hard lesson for us. Of course, we want to love Jesus, to love God. Yet, so often, we are willing to choose to offend him, to disobey what we know to be his commandments. Instead of becoming more frustrated about our sinful ways, maybe we might spend time in prayer with these basic but beautiful truths: Our souls thirst deeply for God’s love; God sends us instruments of his own mercy; we can renew our love for him, allowing rivers of living water to flow forth from us for others. Come, Holy Spirit, make it so.

Fr. Zuberbueler is pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Falls Church.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019