Lectio Divina: John 15:26 - 16:4a
1) Opening prayer
Lord our God,
if we really believe in You and in Your Son,
we cannot but be witnesses.
Send us Your Spirit of strength,
that we may give no flimsy excuses
for not standing up for You
and for the love and rights of our neighbor.
Make us only afraid
of betraying You and people
and of being afraid to bear witness.
We ask You this through Christ our Lord.
2) Gospel Reading - John 15:26-16:4a
Jesus said to his disciples: "When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning. "I have told you this so that you may not fall away. They will expel you from the synagogues; in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God. They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me. I have told you this so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you."
• In chapters 15 to 17 of the Gospel of John, the horizon extends beyond the historical moment of the Last Supper. Jesus prays to the Father, “I pray not only for these but also for those who through their teaching will come to believe in Me” (Jn 17:20). In these chapters, there is constant reference to the action of the Spirit in the life of the communities after Easter.
• John 16:26-27: The action of the Holy Spirit in the life of the community. The first thing that the Spirit does is to give witness to Jesus: “He will be My witness.” The Spirit is not a spiritual being without a definition. No! He is the Spirit of Truth who comes from the Father, will be sent by Jesus Himself, and introduces us to the complete truth (Jn 16:13). The complete truth is Jesus Himself: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life!” (Jn 14:6). At the end of the first century, there were some Christians who were so fascinated by the action of the Spirit that they no longer looked at Jesus. They affirmed that now, after the Resurrection, it was no longer necessary to look at Jesus of Nazareth, the one “who comes in the flesh.” They withdrew from Jesus and remained only with the Spirit. They said, “Jesus is anathema!” (1 Cor 12:3). The Gospel of John takes a stand and does not permit the action of the Spirit to be separated from the memory of Jesus of Nazareth. The Holy Spirit cannot be isolated with an independent greatness, separated from the mystery of the Incarnation. The Holy Spirit is inseparably united to the Father and to Jesus. He is the Spirit of Jesus that the Father sends to us, that same Spirit that Jesus has gained with His death and Resurrection. And we, receiving this Spirit in Baptism, should be the prolongation of Jesus: “And you too will be witnesses!” We can never forget that precisely on the eve of His death Jesus promises the Spirit, in the moment when He gave Himself for His brothers. Today, the Charismatic Movement insists on the action of the Spirit and does much good, but it should always insist on more. It should also insist on affirming that it is the Spirit of Jesus of Nazareth, who out of love for the poor and the marginalized was persecuted, arrested and condemned to death. Precisely because of this, He has promised us His Spirit in such a way that we, after His death, continue His action and are for humanity the revelation of the preferential love of the Father for the poor and the oppressed.
• John 16:1-2: Do not be afraid. The Gospel tells us that to be faithful to Jesus will lead us to difficulties. The disciples will be excluded from the Synagogue. They will be condemned to death. The same thing that happened to Jesus will happen to them. This is why at the end of the first century, there were people who, in order to avoid persecution, diluted or watered down the message of Jesus transforming it into a Gnostic message: vague, without any definition, and which did not contradict the ideology of the Empire. To them is applied what Paul said: “They are afraid of the cross of Christ” (Gal 6:12). John himself, in his letter, will say concerning them, “There are many deceivers at large in the world, refusing to acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in human nature (He became man). They are the Deceiver; they are the Antichrist!” (2 Jn 1:7). Thomas’ demand: “Unless I can see the holes that the nails made in His hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into His side, I refuse to believe.” (Jn 20:25) is another variant. The Risen Christ who promises to give us the gift of the Spirit is Jesus of Nazareth who continues to have, even now, the signs of torture and of the cross on His risen Body.
• John 16:3-4: They do not know what they do. They do all these things “because they have never known either the Father or Me.” These people do not have a correct image of God. They have a vague image of God, in the heart and in the head. Their God is not the Father of Jesus Christ who gathers us all together in unity and fraternity. For this reason Jesus was impelled to say, “Father, forgive them, because they know not what they do.” (Lk 23:34). Jesus was condemned by the religious authority because, according to their idea, He had a false image of God. In the words of Jesus there is no hatred or vengeance, but only compassion: they are ignorant brothers who know nothing of our Father. This is another “Way” He teaches, as we talked about before, which guides us especially in dealing with those of other religions or those Christian denominations that have watered down His word in order to not be inconvenienced in our society.
4) Personal questions
• The mystery of the Trinity is present in the affirmation of Jesus, not as a theoretical truth, but as an expression of the Christian with the mission of Christ. How do I describe my relationship to each of the three persons of the Trinity?
• How do I live the action of the Spirit in my life in a visible way?
• “They have not known either the Father or Me” applies to one who believes wrongly, believes a false god, or one who is ignorant of God entirely or refuses to believe at all. This passage still applies to Christians in the Middle East just as it did then. It also applies to our experiences within secular society. What are all the ways we experience this lack of knowledge of the Father and the Son in our life today and how can we respond?
5) Concluding Prayer
Sing a new song to Yahweh:
His praise in the assembly of the faithful!
Israel shall rejoice in its Maker,
the children of Zion delight in their king. (Ps 149:1-2)