Many people experience God at work in the world, but they lack the words to understand that experience. In this Sunday’s first reading, for example, Cornelius had already encountered the Spirit before he was baptized. Peter gave him the words he needed to understand this encounter. In this, Peter was living out the resurrection. He became an icon of the risen Christ as he shared his knowledge of the loving work of God.
‘I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.’ (Jn 15:15)
How do you make Christ’s love present?
What loving words can you speak to help others understand God’s presence?
Throughout John’s Gospel, the Evangelist affirms that loving words and deeds make God present. The Father told the Son the whole truth of existence before sending him to earth (Jn 1:18). The Son is the only one who knows the Father and is the only one who has heard the whole truth (Jn 6:46, 12:49). The possession of this truth makes the Son a perfect image of the Father (Jn 14:9). As this Sunday’s Gospel reveals, Jesus gave us the ability to become such an image. He told the disciples everything the Father had told him (Jn 15:15).
Jesus sent the disciples out to share this truth with others. He gave them the Spirit to guide them in this task and strengthen them in the face of opposition (Jn 14:26). Disciples who live in the Spirit and hold to the truth became, like the Son, an icon of the Father (Jn 17:20-23). As they shared that truth with others, they gave any who believed the power to become an icon of the divine (Jn 20:21). Jesus uses two symbols to communicate what it means reveal God at work: He washes the feet of his disciples and he teaches them the commandment, “As I haved loved you, so you also should love one another.” In John’s Gospel, these two actions contain the entirety of the truth that God wants us to know.
Throughout all the writings attributed to John, love is the surest sign of God at work. “Everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love” (1 Jn 4:7-8). God saved the world through love by sending his Son as an expiation for our sins. Just so, when Christians act in love, they not only make God present; they allow Christ to continue his ministry through their actions.
This is especially clear in this Sunday’s first reading. The Holy Spirit was already at work in Cornelius’s household even before Peter arrived to share the Gospel and offer baptism. Peter's preaching helped Cornelius and his family put words to their experience of God’s presence. Peter’s actions allowed the Spirit, which had been working in subtle ways, to become fully manifest.
Disciples today must continue the same task. The Spirit fills the world, and many feel the presence of God but lack the words to understand what God is doing. We who know Christ must, like Peter, help others understand their experience. We can do that only when we live by the Gospel that Jesus learned from the Father and passed on to us. We make the risen Christ present whenever we seek out the world’s broken places and, trusting in the Spirit already at work, speak of the love of God. Then we are rightly called his friends.