Reflections on the Readings
Sixth Sunday of Easter - May 29, 2011 - Year A
By Dennis S. Hankins
A Personal Relationship with Jesus
"I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you." - Jesus
Recently I was bragging about my Kindle Electronic Reader. Holding it up I declared I had the whole New Testament on my Kindle. And it can hold 3,500 books I declared with a smile on my face. A colleague responded patting himself over his heart, "Dennis, I have the whole New Testament right here!" That's a good way to describe our personal relationship with Jesus. Because the New Testament is not just words, it's about a man called Jesus. And his talk to his disciples today is about how he will never leave us or forsake us. He comes to us through the Holy Spirit.
I recently read Story of the Soul by Saint Therese of Lisieux. In it she recounts her deeply personal relationship with Jesus. She describes herself in love with the lover of her soul. This resonated with me. My Pentecostal upbringing emphasized this kind of fervency and devotion to the one who loves us. His name fell effortlessly from the lips of those I looked up to. They cried out in prayer in his name and greeted each other as brother and sister with whom they were one through baptism. We all aspired to live a life of holiness, witnessing to the hope within us - the high calling we received in our baptism. Jesus says, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments."
Jesus tells us today that we can see him and know him. He declares the love he and the Father has for us. And the Holy Spirit brings the presence of God into our lives.
Cereal is dry as everyone knows. It comes in a cardboard box and is tightly sealed inside the box. You open the box and pour it into a bowl and then dig in and start shoveling it in your mouth. Right? Wrong! I imagine that most folks do not care for a bowl full of dry cereal. Like me, you probably pour your skim milk over it and may even dice up some fruit in it to give the stuff some flavor. The milk and fruit bring the dry cereal to life and makes waking up in the morning pleasurable.
Some people need a little milk in their life. Jesus seems dry and distant. His voice is dim in the heart and your voice is timid to speak his name. Jesus' greatest promise to his disciples just before his Ascension was that he would remain with them and us in a special way. Jesus tells us, "I will send you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you."
Jesus speaks of the Paracletos that can be translated as Counselor, Advocate, and Helper. In truth the Spirit is all these and more. The Holy Spirit imparts to us the life of Christ and unites us to God. He is the great Milk of heaven bringing out the vitality and flavor of Jesus in all that we do. He helps us to pray more deeply in the name of Jesus. He aids us in witnessing to the great hope that is ours in Christ. With the Spirit's help we receive strength to overcome the devil and the temptations he brings us.
The Sacraments of the Church, especially the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist reveal Christ to us. In these the Holy Spirit restores the soul of the faithful. By these gracious gifts of Christ's presence among us we grow in grace and attain that inner life of the beauty of holiness. These are the very special elements of a personal relationship with Jesus. Don't let anyone tell you that the Catholic Church does not believe in a personal relationship with Jesus. We go to his altar every Lord's day to commune with him as deeply committed friends. In the gift of his body and blood he brings us into all that is him. And he reminds us in that special moment, "I will not leave you desolate; I am here, here am I." Amen.