Jesus' Spirit at work in us
May 5, 2002

Al Cariño
Reproduced with Permission

During the 1998 presidential campaign, candidate Joseph Estrada loved to tell the story that when he told his father about his plan to enter politics, his father's only advice to him was never to have the family name tarnished, specially with graft and corruption. Standing trial now for the crime of plunder, it appears that he has not lived up to his father's advice.

It is a fact that there are some people who continue to live by the sound advice of, say, their parents and even their grandparents. These words may be as follows: always tell the truth no matter the consequences; no evil person can make them evil, unless they want to; if bad people are not ashamed to do evil, they should not be ashamed to go good; etc. These words remain a source of inspiration and direction for then as they express experienced beliefs.

In today's gospel (Jn. 14: 15-21), we see Jesus continue with His farewell address to His disciples before He would go through His final Passover - from death to life -- in Jerusalem. His parting words evoked in their hearts mixed feelings of sadness and joy. Sadness because they would no longer see Him. Joy because He promised not to leave them orphans and that their separation would not be for long. This because after His return to the Father, He promised to send the Holy Spirit to make sure that His mission would be continued as well as guide and protect them and those who would come after them until He came again as Judge in the end-time.

Having assured His disciples of this, Jesus then told them, "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." With this, Jesus gives us the relationship between love and obedience to His commands: we show our love for Him by obedience to His commands -- His teachings in words and deeds. When we do this, then we are loved by His Father, too.

The relationship is best illustrated in the parable of the two brothers who were commanded by their father to work in the vineyard. One said "yes" but did not go. The other said "no" but went. After narrating this parable, Jesus asked the people, "Which of the two did what his father wanted?" "The first," they answered. Then Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you." Why? Because despite their lives of sin, they accepted and believed in Jesus and put to practice what He taught, thus showing their love for Him.

From the parable, it is easy to see that it is the first son whom the father loved. Jesus told us this parable precisely so that we will have someone with whom we can easily identify. Like the first son, we know God's commands. But we often disobey them, we sin. Yet, when this happens, we remember Jesus' words through the prompting of the Spirit and realize we have strayed -- in the same way that we remember the words of our parents or grandparents when we have not lived up to them. We then pick up the broken pieces of our lives again, show repentance, and return to the love of Jesus and His Father. This pattern -- disobedience of Jesus' commands, recollection of His words, reconciliation, return to His and the Father's love -- is repeated over and over throughout our life.

Oftentimes we feel discouraged about our sinfulness. We feel that because we commit and confess the same sins over and over again, we do not seem to be going anywhere, we are not progressing in our spiritual life at all.

It is sometimes good to feel that way. For it shows that we can not attain salvation through our own efforts alone. This is where the Holy Spirit comes in -- as our Sanctifier and Advocate before the Father. He is now with us, dwells in us, helps us recall Jesus' commands, and assists us to carry them out. With Him always around, we no longer feel alone in our struggle to lead good lives. All we have to do is cooperate with His promptings and inspirations.

In truth, the fact that we feel discouraged about our sinfulness is itself a grace. Why? Because it makes us realize that the more we depend on God and the less on ourselves, the more malleable we become in the Spirit's hands. More, we become more disposed to obey Jesus' commands and in the process show our love for Him and the Father. Then Jesus' words -- "I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you" -- becomes a reality in us.

Let us then place ourselves completely at the Spirit's disposal so that He will be free to mold us in the image of Jesus, after whose life the Father wants us to pattern ours -- a life lived in love manifested in obedience.