"The key for finding sweet joy in this time of the pandemic is to love God and each other."
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. I shall ask the Father, and he will give you another Paraclete to be with you forever.”
Jesus, in the Gospel reading for this Sunday, reveals another Helper, our comforter the Holy Spirit. However, this promise comes with the caveat—he is sending the Holy Spirit to those who follow his commandments; that is, to whosoever loves the Father and follows his will. Even as Jesus is ascended into heaven, and would no longer accompany his disciples, he promised not to abandon them, that is, the Holy Spirit will be sent to the believer to be his counselor, the Paraclete (Greek for one who comes alongside). On that day, according to the Lord, the believer will realize that he is in us. This is true because the Lord and the Spirit, just like the Father, are one.
The common thread in all the verses of the Gospel is obedience that comes from love of the Father. Whoever holds to my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves me, and whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I shall love him and reveal myself to him, Jesus said to his disciples. He who loves the Father obeys him.
We ask the question: How much do we really love the Lord since our love is measured by our obedience to his will? If we follow the truth in a world that is often opposed to God, it is not because of our own merit, but because the Spirit of God dwells in us, the Spirit who guides and teaches us to follow the truth. All we have to do is to obey and love God and he will direct us to the truth. The Spirit of truth whom the world can never accept since it neither sees nor knows Him; but you know him because he is with you, he is in you, Jesus reveals to his followers.
Jesus’ command to love one another is the foundation and essence of all his teachings while his promise of the Holy Spirit is his eternal legacy to his followers.
In a world where so much confusion, untruth, and suffering reign, it is the Holy Spirit that guides us to recognize the truth, to discern the will of the Father for all of us in the midst of this pandemic. When we are so weighed down by pain and suffering, poverty, illness and death, many will be tempted to give in to despair, anger, unbelief, doubting the mercy and goodness of God.
But God is faithful to his promise. Even with the stubborn Israelites, who at every turn in the desert disobeyed Him, Yahweh never reneges from his promises, despite everything, He freed them from the slavery in Egypt and brought them to the Promised Land. He does not promise us a bed of roses for sure, certainly not a life without pain and suffering.
What we are promised, and Jesus renews and perfects that through His resurrection, is interior peace and serenity bestowed by the Holy Spirit for those who love and remain obedient. We hold on to the promise of the Lord and the indwelling of God’s Spirit will give us the strength to emerge triumphant amidst this topsy-turvy world of indifference, isolation, and turmoil.
The key for finding sweet joy in this time of the pandemic is to love God and each other harder and more.
As the Easter season ends, I encourage my readers to read John Piper’s “Coronavirus and Christ.” In this short book the evangelical pastors us “to stand on the solid Rock, who is Jesus Christ, in whom our souls can be sustained by the sovereign God who ordains, governs, and reigns over all things to accomplish his wise and good purposes for those who trust in him”. The book has two parts: Part 1: The God who reigns over the coronavirus; Part 2: What is God doing through the coronavirus? I end with and make mine some of the thoughts Piper shares in the first chapter of that book:
“The Rock I stand on (and want you to stand on) is the Rock of God’s action in the world now, and forever. “If the Lord wills,” the Bible says, “we will live.” That’s about as involved now as you can get. Not just, “Whether you live or die, you will be with God,” but also, “God will decide if you live or die—now.”
And not just live or die. He’s even more involved than that. “If the Lord wills, we will . . . do this or that.” Nothing is excluded from “this or that.” He is totally involved. Totally. This health, or that sickness. This economic collapse, or that recovery. This breath, or not.
“Fear not. Whether you live or die, you will be with me. And in the meantime, while you live, nothing will happen to you—nothing!—that I do not appoint. If I decide, you will live. If I decide, you will die. And until you die at my decision, I will decide if you do this or that. Get to work
This is my Rock—for today, tomorrow, and eternity.”
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