Today’s Gospel is a continuation of last week’s Gospel: Jesus is speaking to his disciples at the Last Supper. In today’s reading Jesus offers encouragement to his disciples, who will soon see him crucified. He reassures them that even though he will leave them, he will not abandon them. Instead he will send them the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, through whom the disciples will continue to live in union with Jesus. Jesus contrasts his impending departure with the permanence of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus will leave to return to the Father, but the Holy Spirit will remain with the disciples.
St Peter and St Paul knew God as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They knew God as the One who keeps promises, a God of a second chance, and a God that saves, a God that can convert. St Paul told one group that God was a “living God who made the heaven and the earth and the sea” (Acts 14:15), and he told the people of Athens that he was the One in whom we “live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). The second reading for this day from 1 Peter gives us a challenge. It says: ” Reverence the Lord Christ in your hearts, and always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you all have….” Today we need to articulate what our hope is.
Who do you know God as? Who do we know God as? We cannot tell of something or someone that we do not know. As Christians, we know God as a provider. The God we know is fair and just, generous and good. Our God is a loving, healing God. A right-on-time God. The God we know is a forgiving, gracious God because heaven knows we do not get it right all the time. We know God as Redeemer, Reconciler, Restorer and Resurrector, just to name a few.
That is who we know God as. And the God we serve proves this over and repeatedly. The God we serve places the right people in the right places to make things happen at the right time, giving us unmerited favour. And the God we serve makes a way when there seems to be no way.
But, there are individuals who do not know this God. The knowledge of the God we know is not everywhere you turn, because people do not really know who God is, and what God has done, and can do. God, for some, is only a God to question or blame or accuse or even curse when things go wrong. Many people believe that God is some sort of vengeful deity that must be appeased by good behaviour, just in case! But that is not the God that Peter or Paul proclaimed.
There really is a God who loves everyone, a God who came to serve us. Our God, who has given everyone life and being, and is interested in every part of your life, no matter how insignificant it may seem. God’s love, care, and identity have been made abundantly clear in the person and work of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. As St Peter wrote “Why, Christ himself, innocent though he was, had died once for sins, died for the guilty, to lead us to God”. That God should be known by everyone!
And therein lies our responsibility as Christians. We must bear witness to the God we know. In the person and work of Jesus, all the doubts and fears and anxieties over the “unknown God” happily disappear. God is not a distant, uncaring God. God is a very close and personal God.
So, who do you know God as? Who do we know God as? We cannot tell of something accurately if we do not know for ourselves, first-hand. You cannot give directions to a place if you do not know where it is. Similarly, we cannot share a God we do not know for ourselves with others, or people will get lost.
We are charged with being a witness for the God we know. We are charged with telling somebody about this God. Tell people about the love God has shown us in Jesus Christ. Our God should no longer be unknown. Our God is too good and too generous to remain that way.
God is the God who is known by loving-kindness to us, shown in the One who lived and died and rose again, so that we too might live with God. Each time we approach God’s altar, we are saying, “We believe. We believe in a God whose only begotten Son died for us all.” We are saying, “God, you are in me and I in You.”
But it does not stop there. When we make our way to God’s altar and ultimately out of the doors of the church, that is where the real work begins. Catholic Christianity is – at least on its good days – a faith of action, not of words. We do not remain in Jesus’ love by sitting and doing nothing – not even by prayer and reading the scriptures We are all called to be witnesses to the God we know – and our lives, our beings, our very essence should always, always reflect that. We remain in his love by living in his commandments.
Let us pray that our love may always show more in actions than in words.