They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.’ Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, ‘Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.
‘I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.” If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.
- John 14:21-29
In these words, Jesus affirms for me the reality of Spirit, and the importance of understanding this kingdom in which we participate through faith as something real, indwelling in us and present to the world, and yet outside "the world" in the sense that it is life in abundance. It is something added to our daily lives that we perceive (and receive) in ways beyond our usual physical senses. It's an extra dimension of reality that is added to our daily lives, which informs, infuses and adds a spiritual dimension to all that we do or perceive. This is my understanding of what is Spirit, and what is meant by the kingdom. I hope to grow to understand these things better, but that is roughly my idea of the spiritual life in the kingdom. It is something in which we are all invited to participate, not just a code or a set of beliefs alone.
As Jesus bids farewell to his Twelve apostles in our reading for today, we are set with a system of values and beliefs, and a procedure for growing in our faith and in relationship and participation in the kingdom. We have his word and his teachings. Throughout the readings of the past month or so we have been reading Luke, which is replete with teachings and parables such as that of the Good Samaritan, or the story of Martha and Mary, the advice to his disciples about how to preach and to teach those who may become followers, and his dispensation to the Seventy. So we understand that we begin this journey toward the kingdom with the understanding of its logic and its teachings, including the basic understanding of the law and the prophets to love God with all our mind and soul and being, and to love our neighbor (as in the Good Samaritan) as ourselves.
But that's just the beginning, if I read correctly Jesus' words here. The beginning is to follow the word. What we expect is something altogether different, added to the world and to the word. We expect an indwelling participation in this Reality that Jesus is talking about, the rules of which we've been learning through the teachings about right-relatedness in the parables. We expect the Advocate. Moreover, we expect, in Jesus' words, that 'those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.' We expect his manifestation, himself made real, to us. His disciples don't know what to make of this, so Jesus explains: ‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.'
Furthermore we are to understand that there is a new reality of wisdom to be present to all of us who keep and love the word we hear in faith. That is the Advocate, the Holy Spirit (or Spirit of truth), which will be sent to us from the Father. Jesus says that his apostles should rejoice that he is going to the Father, because the Father is greater than he. As I understand this, it is in the sense of the Father as the Fountainhead of all, even of the Trinity - and so the Spirit will be sent to us and they Three will indwell in us. This is participation in the depth of the sense of full identity. We expect identity to be formed and shaped in relationship; just as our identity is formed and shaped in relationship to those with whom we are close or whom we love in the world, so also our identity as members of this kingdom must grow and be shaped within this indwelling Reality of relationship. Our understanding of our lives, how to live them, what is wise and proper, will also depend on this discernment given via this relationship.
'Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives.' We are given full relatedness, full relationship with the Trinity - or at least the possibility of this gift. Our peace, and the peace of the apostles at this dinner before the Passion and death on the cross of their Leader, is the peace of understanding that we are given full membership in this kingdom, and we are given the gift of the Divine Personhood of this indwelling. It is important to understand, from my perspective, the nature of this gift and how it is given, and to take advantage of what it offers to us. All we have to do is open to it, ask it to come in and give us guidance. At least, I believe that all we can do is try, and see where it leads us, and which form of participation it gives us as we lead our lives.