Readings for the Sixth Sunday of Easter can be found here.
Happy Easter! We may not be hearing these words anymore, but as Catholics we are continuing to celebrate Easter. Maintaining the joy of Jesus’ resurrection throughout the whole season of Easter can be challenging, as the rest of the world has moved forward, looking to the next big event. And as we celebrate this Sixth Sunday of Easter, we may notice that liturgically we seem to be in a time of transition. The stark drama of crucifixion to resurrection; the rejoicing of the victory won; the new life overcoming death are no doubt still present and at the forefront, and yet…what comes next?
In the beautiful Gospel of John, we encounter Jesus’s words about this transition during the Last Supper discourses: “In a little while, the world will no longer see me, but you will see me because I live and you will live” (Jn. 14:19). We also hear Jesus tell his disciples that they will not be left orphans because the Father will send another Advocate, the Spirit. As our liturgical celebration of Jesus’s Ascension into heaven approaches, we are reminded that we will soon also be celebrating Pentecost, and the coming of the Holy Spirit. This is the answer to what comes next. As Easter hastens to a close, we recall Jesus in his resurrected form ascending into heaven and the Holy Spirit coming down to earth at Pentecost to nourish and strengthen the Church. During this transition, we also keep in mind Jesus’s continued presence among us in the Eucharist.
Easter gave us the opportunity to remember that Christ won the victory for us, but this should not bring life to a standstill. Instead, it propels us forward in praise and gratitude, just as it did for the early church, whose adventures we’ve been following throughout Easter in the Acts of the Apostles. The preaching and the healing continued Jesus’s work in the world, through the help of the Holy Spirit.
During this time of transition, we might spend some time contemplating these words from the Gospel of John: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn. 14:15) and “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me” (Jn. 14:21). This pairing of love and commandments may strike us as odd in our contemporary world that places such a high priority on choice and freedom, understood as doing whatever one wants or feels, being true to oneself in the sense of following impulses and desires while seeking self-fulfillment.
And yet, keeping commandments is not about squashing our free will or limiting our choices. Rather, it is keeping the commandments that facilitates our freedom by aligning our will to God’s. In the world’s eyes, it may seem that we have fewer choices or have curtailed our enjoyment of life by reducing indulgences. In reality, however, by saying no to sin and selfish desires, we actually unlock a true freedom to love, finding that our self-fulfillment is God-fulfillment. This is not to say that the sacrifices entailed will always feel easy. And yet, when we have great love, we often find it possible to do difficult things without counting the cost.
As we continue to celebrate the Easter season, while moving forward to Jesus’s ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, let us keep God’s great love for us and our great love for God at the core of our transition.