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283. The Supreme Gift (John 14:13-21)

May 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Fr. Bartunek, Meditations, The Better Part

“The spiritual building up of the body of Christ is brought about by love…” St. Fulgentius of Ruspe

John 14:13-21: ‘Whatever you ask for in my name I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask for anything in my name, I will do it. If you love me you will keep my commandments. I shall ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever, that Spirit of truth whom the world can never receive since it neither sees nor knows him; but you know him because he is with you, he is in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come back to you. In a short time, the world will no longer see me; but you will see me because I live and you will live. On that day you will understand that I am in my Father and you in me and I in you. Anybody who receives my commandments and keeps them will be one who loves me; and, anybody who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I shall love him and show myself to him.’

Christ the Lord Jesus is gathered with his disciples on the evening before his Passion. The intense intimacy of the moment is marked by his apostles’ rapt attention. He begins to speak to them of what is about to happen. He knows that he is going to suffer, die, rise, and ascend into heaven. His earthly mission is coming to a close, and he is preparing them for the next stage, the epoch of the Church, which he will guide through the work of the Holy Spirit, the “Advocate.”

To us, this is normal. We know the full story, so we know what Christ is referring to. But put yourself in the position of the apostles. How odd it must have been for them to hear these words – even mystifying! Jesus is predicting the future with an uncanny specificity and confidence. His mastery over other men, over nature, over sickness and demons, all this was familiar to the Twelve. But mastery over future events? Seemingly contradictory references to being unseen and then seen again? Allusions to the Father sending an “Advocate” to be with them always? Surely they must have sounded almost like the words of a madman… or of the Son of God. If with our imagination we try to enter into this scene, placing ourselves at the apostles’ side and listening to these words as if for the first time, perhaps we will hear once again the untamed grandeur, tender love, and mysterious truth that radiated from Christ the Lord on the first Holy Thursday.

Christ the Teacher During the Last Supper discourse, Christ’s constant refrain is: if you love me, you will keep my commandment. That commandment is to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34), the commandment of charity. In a sense, the Last Supper is Jesus’ last earthly encounter with his beloved companions (the later Resurrection appearances already have an otherworldly feel). These are his parting words, then, the last flow of love from his Sacred Heart before it is broken and pierced. They are special words. We need to hear them; we need to let them sink in.

He knows that these twelve men, so normal and yet so privileged, love him. He earnestly desires to teach them how to live out that love. It is not in pretty words, it is not merely in rituals and prayers, it is not in lengthy theological treatises – it is in obedience to the wishes of his heart; it is in imitating his love for them. Love made into action, into serving our brothers and sisters, giving our lives for them – just like Christ’s love from Calvary’s cross – is the only mark of a follower of Christ. Jesus never tires of repeating this. He wants to convince us that everything else is in a distant second place. If, having discovered his love for us, we courageously and trustingly leave behind our self-absorption and launch out on the enlivening and everlasting adventure of loving in the same way, we will finally discover and experience what we were created for and what we long for. In the end, we will be judged on our love – our love for God lived out in love for our neighbor.

PentakostaHolySpiritPentacost for post on John 14:13-21Christ the Friend  “I will not leave you orphans.” How painful for the Twelve to hear their Lord, their Leader, speaking about his imminent departure! They had left all to follow him, and he was going to leave them. But not really… He would send them the “Advocate to be with them always” – the “Paraclete,” the Holy Spirit. In the Holy Spirit, Jesus knows that he will be present to his disciples in a more intimate way than ever before. The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Blessed Trinity, is the love between the Father and Son lived so intensely that it is a person itself. When we are baptized, that same Spirit takes up residence within our souls, and his field of action is increased when we are confirmed. This gift surpasses all other gifts. In the Holy Spirit the prophecy of “Emmanuel” (God-with-us) takes on unimaginable proportions: not merely God among us, as in the Incarnation, but God within us, a guest in our souls, a guide for our life’s journey, a personal trainer for our spiritual fitness. What greater gift could Christ have left us? What other friend could match such a gift?

Jesus: I was longing to complete my mission go back to the Father, because I was longing to come and live in your heart forever, in an intimacy that only the Spirit can give. And I was longing to go and sit at the Father’s right hand so that I could be there interceding for you all the time, so that you could finally ask the Father for all that you need and desire in my name. Now that I have repaired the breach through my sacrifice on the cross, the floodgates of grace are open, and all that I have and all that the Father has is all yours.

Christ in My Life  You speak with such assurance, Lord. You are Master of all time and space. You are Master of my life. What confidence this should give me! Increase my faith, Lord. Give me the faith and trust of a child who is incapable of doubting, of being anxious, of wondering what will become of him. You love me more than any human mother or father ever could. And you are all-powerful. Jesus, I trust in you…

Mary, the Church calls you the Mother of Fairest Love. But you didn’t do big and impressive things. You did all things with the purest and most humble self-forgetfulness and dedication to God the world had ever seen. You had two mottos: “Let it be done to me…” and “My soul magnifies the Lord.” Why do I keep seeking satisfaction in other mottos? Mother, pray for me, teach me to love…

Holy Spirit, pour out your gifts into my soul. My mind is weak and benighted; renew and restore its vigor and clarity. My will is shrunken and misdirected; breathe into it your force and goodness. My heart – I don’t even want to talk about it. You know that way down at its very core is a tiny spark of love. Blow on it, feed it, build it into a blazing fire of zeal for God’s glory and the salvation of souls…

 

PS: This is just one of 303 units of Fr. John’s fantastic book The Better Part. To learn more about The Better Part or to purchase in print, Kindle or iPhone editions, click here. Also, please help us get these resources to people who do not have the funds or ability to acquire them by clicking here.

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Art for this post on John 14:13-21: Cover of The Better Part used with permission. Pentakosta (Pentecost), Yerrio darius raolika, 16 September 2010, PD- Worldwide, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college, he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller, "Inside the Passion"--the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer". His most recent books are "Spring Meditations", "Seeking First the Kingdom: 30 Meditations on How to Love God with All Your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength", and "Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions". Fr. John currently splits his time between Michigan (where he continues his writing apostolate and serves as a confessor and spiritual director at the Queen of the Family Retreat Center) and Rome, where he teaches theology at Regina Apostolorum. His online, do-it-yourself retreats are available at RCSpirituality.org, and he answers questions about the spiritual life at SpiritualDirection.com.

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  • Dandy

    A BEAUTIFUL article today! Thank you, I needed this. God bless.

  • faithful123

    ‘Whatever you ask for in my
    name I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you
    ask for anything in my name, I will do it.This was something I was recently reflecting on. Anything you ask in my name, I will do it. And then I recalled, but we are always to pray “if it be your will” andis that a contradiction?Actually, I did get a very clear explanation. That basic premise is:we
    have to ask according to his will, we cannot have sin on our souls (or
    hearts), we have to keep his commandments and do what pleases him. All
    of these things are contingencies so that we can receive what we ask
    for. We could add Psalm 66:18 that says, “If I regard iniquity in my
    heart, the Lord will not hear me.” And while we’re at it, if we add the
    very next verse after Mark 11:24–Mark 11:25–it clarifies things even
    more in the immediate context of the passage in question. Jesus himself
    there adds: “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have
    anything against any one; so that you Father also who is in heaven may
    forgive you your trespasses.” The implication is here that if we do not
    forgive, we will not be in a right relationship with God and the promise
    of verse 24 would be negatively affected.

    So, to ask ‘IN HIS NAME’ – is not to take it literally: God, in the name of
    Jesus; I ask you to……………. No; that’s thinking of Jesus as being over
    in that corner and ‘I’ in another. To ask in His name is to be very closely
    united to the same ACTIONS as Jesus. Our very demeanor to God, tells
    God that when he hears our voice; He is hearing that of His ONLY
    Son.

    I had to take note to myself, how different human nature gives. They
    ‘give’ to others to be affirmed themselves. God doesn’t need our love or approval, and so if God gives us the request of our hearts; OUR HEARTS that are close to HIS HEART… the – truth – is – I – didn’t – even – have – to-
    ask – in – awkward – human – words — The WORD is simply always with me… in my actions. If my actions are His actions; I need never fear that
    it won’t go well… if I ask for a job; but sit in despair and do nothing –
    I am not ‘in God’ … God can’t answer.. if I am in God, I will act in the
    positive and move about doing the good things that bring others to see my
    need; and GOD will respond and answer my prayer.
    Sometimes we think God needs our help; but He knows our needs before
    we ask… and all we need do is BE STILL and KNOW who is GOD.

    • Christopher

      +J.M.J+

      An excellent post, Thanks. This is something that I had been thinking about recently myself and couldn’t quite reach the conclusion. Your explanation has now helped me understand!

    • frtrue75@att.net

      Dear faithful123: Your post is on target for me. I looked up Psalm 66 and to my surprise I found vese 18 underlined; a reminder that I had at one time knew this and, to my sorrow, forgot it. Thank you for a timely and lovely post. God bless you. Donald

    • LizEst

      This is beautiful. One thing, though, God always answers. It’s just that sometimes it is not the answer we would like to receive.

      • Camila

        “God always answers.” And His answers are way better than we can imagine for ourselves.

        Dear faithful123,

        Your post is great! It reminds me of a conversation I had with my twin boys yesterday. They said “Mom, if we do this project and the teacher likes it, we might get chocolate cake as a reward. Oh mom, can you pray with us that we get the chocolate cake.” I said “no way, I not going to pray for you to get chocolate cake” to which they responded “But mom! Why not?! If you pray, God is going to hear you better than He hears us!” I said “hmmm, then all the more I’m not going to pray.” With disappointed faces they said “well, we’re going to pray anyway” “Be my guest.” I responded. And they did pray – with prayers of thanksgiving, petitions and Our Fathers and even our poor Blessed Mother had to hear petitions of chocolate cake yesterday!

        Here’s the point of my story. I internally, asked God to give them a lesson in humility and NOT give them the cake. Let them do the project and seek no reward! Now who is God going to listen to? Will he answer my prayer or the prayers of the boys? He’ll give HIS answer. Whatever that may be, it will be most perfect response to BOTH our prayers.

        God’s is much bigger than what we can utter in prayer. So we pray, we give thanks, we ask and then we add just like Jesus “but not MY will be done, but THY will be done” …. ultimately if what we ask is aligned with what He wants, then good. If it’s not, His will, which is WAY WAY better than anything we can ask for will get done – precisely because we added those last words “not my will, but Thy will be done.”

        So will the boys earn the cake? TBD…. I’ll find out this afternoon!

        • LizEst

          Once I was asked to pray for someone to find a prom dress. It was not something I would normally pray for. But, because I was asked to help in this way AND it was not something sinful, I thought, “Who am I to refuse prayer for something a friend’s daughter “needs”? How do I know the Lord isn’t going to use this prayer, this situation, in some way?” So, I prayed for the requested dress and prayed also that His will be done. Guess what? The dress was found. It was a great and humbling lesson in not judging the petitioners, not judging their request and not judging God’s response.

          • Camila

            Dear LizEst,

            Thank you for your response. I know you mean well, but here’s the problem. If I don’t judge what their asking for, or how they are thinking about things then guess what, the world will gladly teach them the worldly way. And that is certainly not what I want for them. They are attacked by every corner by ideas, by lies, by myths of all kinds. Unless they can sieve what is true and good amidst this chaotic jungle they will never be holy – never.

            The fact that I have two 10 year olds properly supplicating God and Our Lady in their hearts, going to Them for aid in what they deem important is awesome. Further, the fact that they decidedly prayed even when “mom” disapproved of their petitions is even more amazing. They lack no confidence that prayer is powerful and necessary. They even have the idea of intercessory prayer correct!

            So yes, I am sorry; we’ll disagree on the judging thing. I will judge, many more times if I deem necessary. As a parent my children are simply much too precious for me not to do this. I mean this with all kindness LizEst, really.

            (btw – They did NOT get the cake; and they were happy about it. They argued with me that the criteria used for selecting the winner was phony, and they wanted nothing to do with it! We had left over cupcakes from my daughter’s party – so funny enough, they ended having cake after all, just not the one they had in their minds.)

          • LizEst

            So, they got to have some cake and eat it, too! Ha! Thanks for the update (your cake was probably better for them, anyway).

            WS, as a parent, you absolutely have a responsibility to judge what is good and what is not for your children. There is no argument in that and in teaching them to pray in the right way. I posted my experience as an illustration of something that happened to me. This was my friend’s request for prayer for something for her daughter. This was a request from a friend of my age group, not someone for whom I had a responsibility as a parent to teach right from wrong. There is no comment on your situation, simply the sharing of an experience…which taught me a lesson.

          • Camila

            Dear LizEst,

            There is a story from St. Catherine of Siena that comes to mind.

            “She (St. Catherine) was such a lover of poverty that she told me (Blessed Raymond) in confession that she could never feel happy about her own home so long as the family was comfortably situated and used to pray constantly to the Almighty to put an end to their prosperity and reduce them all to a state of poverty.”

            “The Lord heard her prayers, for by a strange chain of events the family was reduced to a state of extreme poverty – though no fault of their own, according to the people who knew them.”

            (both quotes are from The Life of St. Catherine of Siena by Blessed Raymond of Capua)

  • patricia

    Thank you Father for such a beautiful meditation. Sometimes we feel alone and orphaned but to know God is by your side through good and tough times. This meditation is so appropriate for me since my desire is to grow in deeper love of God and love of all his children. Anything we ask of The Lord he will grant to us as long it is an intention with purity of heart and ultimately is a prayer towards the will of God which is mercy and love in its self. What more can a child of God wish and desire from his or hers Heavenly Father that God will not grant.

  • http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog Mary@42

    This is where I need Your help, my Merciful Saviour:

    “…..Increase my faith, Lord. Give me the faith and trust of a child who is incapable of doubting, of being anxious, of wondering what will become of him….”

    And I earnestly pray to You, God the Holy Spirit, that You will come to my aid here, too, otherwise I am lost for Eternity:

    “….My mind is weak and benighted; renew and restore its vigor and clarity. My will is shrunken and misdirected; breathe into it your force and goodness. My heart – I don’t even want to talk about it. You know that way down at its very core is a tiny spark of love. Blow on it, feed it, build it into a blazing fire of zeal for God’s glory and the salvation of souls…”

  • Anneli Sinkko

    What can I say … Christ Jesus is my world – he is everything to me; I love him. I am asked to see in every person I meet the face of my Lord and love him or her as I have been loved.

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