Four Gifts of Grace – A Homily for the 6th Sunday of Easter
May 25, 2019
Community in Mission
The Sunday Gospel has a number of “sayings” of the Lord Jesus, which all amount to a kind of litany of love. It is a setting forth of the gifts that He, by His grace, is accomplishing and will accomplish in us. Let’s get right to work and consider the wonderful gifts of grace.
I. Power - Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever loves me will keep my word”
Here is a fundamental theology of grace: keeping the commandments and mandates of the Lord’s Word is the fruit of His love, not the cause of it. “Yes,” says the Lord. “If you love me, the keeping of the commandments is sure to follow.” Note that we do not initiate this love, God does. Scripture says, We love because he first Loved us (1 John 4:19).
Pay attention. No one can give what he does not have, and no one can possess what he has not received. God is the author and initiator of love. Love always starts with Him. The Lord is not setting up some sort of loyalty test here, as if He were saying, “If you love me, prove it by keeping my commandments.” That is not the Gospel! The Gospel is that God loved us before we were ever born, before we could do anything to merit His love. He loved us when we were dead in our sins. And He took the initiative and loved us, even when we hated Him and crucified Him.
And if we will accept this love, it will enable us to love God with the same love with which He loves us. And with His love in us, we will begin to love what He loves and whom He loves. We will love holiness, forgiveness, mercy, justice, compassion, chastity, and generosity. We will love our brethren—even our enemies. Why? Because God loves them; when His love is in our heart, so is His love for them.
Do you understand this? Love enables us to keep His Word, to live it and to love it. When I was young, I dated a girl who liked square dancing. At the time, I thought square dancing was silly. But my love for her meant that I started to love what she loved; I came to love her family, too. Do you see it? If we let love have its way, it changes our heart and our desires.
So if you let love have its way you will keep the commandments. The keeping of the commandments is the fruit of love, not its cause. Love is the power of grace at work in us to love what and whom God loves. Jesus says, If you love me, you will keep my commandments (John 14:15).
II. Presence - [Jesus says,] and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.
One of Jesus’ great desires was to restore us to unity with the Father. Jesus was crazy about His Father and earnestly desired to have us know Him and love Him more deeply.
If we will but accept the Father’s love and His shalom, offered through Jesus, we will have a tender and joyful relationship with our Abba, our Father. Jesus often described His Father almost as doting. He is like a shepherd who leaves the 99 in search of the one. He is like a woman who loses a coin, sweeps diligently to find it, and then celebrates by throwing a party more costly than the coin itself. He is like a father whose son effectively tells him to “drop dead,” but who, when the son finally returns, runs out to meet him and throws a party in celebration.
Do you grasp this? The Father loves you and Jesus has reconciled you to Him. Now run to Him; run to Abba, God. If you take one step, He’ll take two, and then He’ll start running to embrace you!
This is the Gospel: Jesus Christ has reconciled us to the Father, at the Father’s own request. He loves you. Now run to Him and watch Him run to you. He does not want distance; He wants intimate presence, love, and embrace.
III. Perfection - [Jesus says,] I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.
We all know that the Christian journey is not accomplished in an instant. Rather, we make this journey with God, the Holy Spirit, who teaches us and makes us mindful of all that Jesus has done for us and taught us. Little by little, we are given a new mind, a new heart, a new walk, and a new and better life. May God who has begun a good work in bring it to perfection (cf Phil 1:6).
If we are open to Him, He is faithful and He will do it. The process may be slow, but that is only because we have foreheads of brass and necks of iron (cf Is 48:4). God is faithful and patient. I am a witness; if He can change me, He can change you, too. He has promised and He will do it.
We will be transformed by the renewal of our mind (cf Rom 12:2), for the Holy Spirit will bring to our mind all that the Lord is and all that He taught. Let the Lord change your mind and heart. If He does that, the rest will follow. Sow a thought, reap a deed; sow a deed, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny. And it all begins with the mind.
One of the gifts of grace is the renewing of our minds and it leads to total transformation.
IV. Peace - Jesus says, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You heard me tell you, “I am going away and I will come back to you.” If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe.
What is the gift of peace? Peace is shalom; it is more than the absence of conflict. It is the presence in the relationship of everything that should be there. Peace is the experience that everything is all right.
For us, peace is access once again to the Father. It is being able once again to walk with Him in love, in and through Jesus Christ. And we don’t just walk with Him in some earthly garden paradise, as Adam and Eve did. Rather, we walk with him in Heaven. In Jesus we are seated with the Father in honor at His right hand.
So what does it mean when the same Jesus who said, “The Father and I are One” (Jn 10:30), also says, “The Father is greater than I” (Jn 14:28)?
Theologically, we can distinguish two ways of understanding this text. Many theologians emphasize that Jesus is referring to his human nature when he says the Father is greater than I. As God He is equal to his Father, but as man he is less than his Father. But other theologians remind us that, even in terms of his divinity the Father has a certain greatness since he is the source in the Trinity. All the members are co-eternal, co-equal, and equally divine, but the Father is the Principium Deitatis (the Principle of the Deity). The father eternally begets the Son and the Son is eternally begotten, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from them both. Since Jesus proceeds from the Father from all eternity. In effect, Jesus is saying, “I delight that the Father is the principle of my being, even though I have no origin.”
Devotionally, Jesus is saying that He always does what pleases His Father. Jesus loves His Father. He’s crazy about Him. He’s always talking about Him and pointing to Him. By calling the Father greater, He says (in effect), “I look to my Father for everything. I do what I see Him doing (Jn 5:19) and what I know pleases Him (Jn 5:30). His will and mine are one. What I will to do proceeds from Him. I do what I know accords with His will.”
Here then is the source of our peace. With Jesus, we love the Father and always do what pleases Him. Jesus “goes to the Father” but He takes us with Him, for we are members of His mystical Body. In Jesus, we enter the holy of holies and sit next to the Father in love and intimacy.
Here, then, are some important gifts of grace. It is up to us to lay hold of them and to live out of them. The Lord promises them to us, so they are ours. And if at times they seem distant, reach out and take back what the devil stole from you. These are gifts of the Lord’s resurrected grace.
Here’s a song that speaks of peace and presence, not to mention power.