Lydia Cristini


Sixth Sunday of Easter – May 1, 2016
Acts 15.1-2, 22-29 | Psalm 67 | Revelation 21.10-14, 22-23 | John 14.23-29
April 18, 2016

I have a friend who often gets on my case about all the "rules" of Catholicism: the ins and outs, the loopholes, the technicalities. For whatever reason, I know about a lot of these "rules," and my first reaction is almost always to defend them.

They all come from somewhere; there's a reason for all of them. There's a reason we fast an hour before Communion; and what's wrong with knowing that if we have a good reason, we can ask for a dispensation from that fast from a priest? Nothing. There's nothing wrong with knowing that.

However, there is, of course, a danger to all of this rule-following: we can become like the early Christians who insisted on the continuation of the Mosaic practices for new converts. Even worse, we can become like the Pharisees, imposing heavy burdens on people without lifting a finger to help them, and thinking we will earn salvation for ourselves purely by following the rules perfectly.

Those who love me will keep my word. - John 14.23

'Those who love me will keep my word.'

John 14.23

Don't get me wrong; discipline is good for our faith life, and even for our life-life. It's no mistake that "discipline" and "disciple" come from the same Latin root.

Nevertheless, Pope Francis warns us, if discipline becomes the priority in our faith, our hearts become weak and the outer walls of our selves become hardened (even while they look pristine).

In his sermon on Dec. 15, 2014, the pope pointed to the one non-negotiable in Jesus' life and teaching: his heart as the Son of the Father. Jesus' heart, as his Father's Son, was always open to all people.

We are an Easter people, and as this Easter season approaches its end, we can reflect on something else Pope Francis reminds us: the salvation Jesus offers us in the resurrection is the ultimate inclusive act.

He offers salvation to everyone, not to just a select few. If we intend to be like him, we need to seek to be inclusive, with a heart open to everyone, not just the rule-followers.

Conversely, the words of Jesus in today's Gospel tell us that keeping his word is necessary: "Whoever loves me will keep my word." Once again, this whole Christianity thing is a delicate balance.

So, as we look ahead to Pentecost, we can ask the Holy Spirit to help us to balance these seemingly subtle, but actually significant, ways of living our faith.

Holy Spirit, help us to remember the importance of keeping the word of the Father and the Son. Holy Spirit, remind us of the spirit at the heart of the laws and the rules. Holy Spirit, show us how to live out the teachings of Christ, and the "rules" of the Church, in ways that keep our hearts open and inclusive.

Holy Spirit, help us remember that following the rules will not earn us a place in heaven; help us remember it is Jesus' gift of salvation, freely offered to all, which will allow us to one day enter into the house of the Father.