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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[John 14–17]

JESUS, seeing that they were sad at what He said, consoled them, saying: “In My Father’s house there are many mansions; I go to prepare a place for you. I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you also may be. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” But Thomas said to Him: “Lord, we know not whither Thou goest, and how can we know the way?”

Jesus replied: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man cometh to the Father but by Me. And I will ask the Father, and He shall give you another Paraclete, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of Truth, the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name—He will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind whatsoever I shall have said to you.

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world giveth, do I give to you. But I will not now speak many things with you. For the prince of this world cometh, and in Me he hath not anything. But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father hath given Me commandment, so do I. Arise, let us go hence.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abide in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches: he that abideth in Me, and I in Him, the same beareth much fruit: for without Me you can do nothing. If any one abide not in Me, he shall be cast forth as a branch, and shall wither, and they shall gather him up, and cast him into the fire, and he burneth.”

“This is My commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

“In the world you shall have distress: but have confidence, I have overcome the world. Amen, amen, I say to you: if you ask the Father anything in My name, He will give it to you. Ask, and you shall receive.”

Then, lifting up His eyes to heaven, Jesus said: “Father, the hour is come, glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son may glorify Thee. As Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He may give eternal life to all whom Thou hast given Him. Now this is1 eternal life: that they may know Thee, the Only True God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent. I have glorified Thee on the earth1: I have finished1 the work which Thou gavest Me to do. And now glorify Thou Me, O Father, with Thyself, with the glory which I had, before the world was, with Thee. I have manifested Thy Name to the men whom Thou hast given Me out of the world. I pray for them. Holy Father, keep them in Thy Name: that they may be one, as we also are. I pray that Thou shouldst keep them from evil. Sanctify them in truth. And not for them only do I pray, but for them also who through their word shall believe in Me: that they may be one in us, that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me. Father, I will that, where I am, they also whom Thou hast given Me may be with Me, that they may see My glory.”


Fig. 84. Mount of Olives, Jerusalem. (Phot. Bruno Hentschel, Leipzig.)

And having said the Hymn, they went forth to the Mount of Olives (Fig. 84, p. 645).

Our Lord’s Divinity. In His prayer: “Father, glorify Thy Son &c.”, Jesus calls God His Father, and Himself the Son of the Divine Father. He also speaks of His glory which He had with the Father before the world began, thus teaching most clearly that, before His Incarnation, He was from all eternity with the Father. For our Lord to speak in this way He must be the only-begotten and co-equal Son of God.

Jesus Christ our Mediator. The chapter we have just read shows us that our Lord gave His life for love of us; that it is only through Him that we can come to the Father; that He prepares a place for us in the House of His Father; that He gives everlasting life to His followers; that the Holy Ghost is sent in His name; and that whoever prays in His name will be heard. It follows from all these passages that Jesus Christ is our Mediator with the Father; that through Him we are reconciled to God; and that it is only through Him that we can obtain grace and glory.

The Holy Ghost is the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity. Our Lord calls Him “another Paraclete”, who would, in His own stead, enlighten, sanctify, strengthen and comfort the apostles and those who came after them, till the end of all things. This shows us that the Holy Ghost must be a Divine Person, distinct from the Father and from the Son. We have just read our Lord’s words: “The Father will send Him in My Name”; and in another passage He speaks of “the Paraclete, the Spirit of Truth, whom I will send you from the Father”. The Holy Ghost is, therefore, the Spirit of the Father and the Son, who proceeds from all eternity from the Father and the Son, and who in time was sent by the Father and the Son.

The Infallibility of the Church. Our Lord knew well that the apostles did not fully understand what He taught them, and He knew moreover that, owing to the weakness of human nature, much that He had taught them would, in the course of time, be forgotten, without the aid of a higher and supernatural assistance. He therefore promised to send the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Truth, to abide with the apostles, to teach them all things, and to bring to their remembrance all that He had said to them. This Spirit of Truth was to abide with them “for ever”; but as the apostles were not to live for ever on this earth, the promise was not meant to apply only to them individually, but to their successors, the Popes and Bishops of the Church. The Spirit of Truth which, according to the promise, abides for ever in the Church, preserves intact in her the Truth taught by Jesus Christ, keeps her from error, and therefore renders the Church infallible.

The wonderful Unity of the Church. For nothing did our Lord, before His death, pray more earnestly than that all who believe in Him might be one; and this unity for which He prayed was to be an outward unity such as could be recognised by the whole world. Our Lord willed to found a united Church; so that only a Church which is inwardly and outwardly, invisibly and visibly one, can be the true Church founded by Jesus Christ. There is but one Church which has all these marks! It is indeed a marvellous thing how the Catholic Church can be universal and at the same time one; for the enduring unity under one head of the faithful, of all ages, climes, and languages, could never have been brought about by natural means. The unity of the universal Church proves her to be the creation of God, and proves that He who founded her, our Lord Jesus Christ, is indeed the Son of God.

The Necessity of Faith. “No man cometh to the Father but by Me”, said our Lord. It follows from this that no one who does not believe in Him can come to the Father, or attain to life everlasting. “This is eternal life”, Jesus went on to say, “that they may know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.”

The Necessity of Grace. Only that vine-branch which is united to the vine, and which is nourished by sap from it, can bear fruit. In like manner we must be united to our Lord Jesus Christ by sanctifying grace, if we wish to bring forth good and meritorious works; for only sanctifying grace can give to our actions a higher and supernatural value. He who is not in a state of grace can, indeed, perform good actions, such, for instance, as almsgiving, but his good actions have not the full supernatural value, and cannot merit heaven; and he who dies out of the grace of God, that is, who is not united to our Lord by sanctifying grace, will be lost, and must be punished for ever in hell. For doing good works and winning heaven, the state of sanctifying grace is, therefore, an elementary necessity; but beyond this habitual state we need the help of God’s grace for the performance of every thing that we do; for, says our Lord “without Me (i. e. without My help and grace) you can do nothing (to merit heaven)”. This grace is called actual and assisting grace.

The commandment to love our neighbour was given in the Old Law, but the Jews limited its practice to those of their own nation and religion; their brotherly love was, therefore, by no means universal. But our Lord has commanded us to love all men, giving His own love for us as a model for our imitation. He showed love in the most perfect form, by laying down His life for all men, just and unjust, friends and enemies; and by His death He has won for us grace to overcome self-love and to practise a supernatural love of our neighbour.

Heaven. There is a heaven, and our Lord in the most distinct terms promises the possession of it to those who love Him. He promises that where He is, in the glory of heaven, there shall His own be also. “What the Almighty Son asked of the Almighty Father as His will (‘I will’) cannot be unfulfilled; for the will of the Father and of the Son is one” (St. Augustine). The happiness of heaven will consist principally in this, that we shall gaze for ever on the glory of our God and Saviour.

Hell. He who does not “abide in Jesus”, that is, he who is not united to Him by sanctifying grace, but is separated from Him by mortal sin, shall be cast into the fire like a withered vine-branch. Our Blessed Lord does not say that the dead branch, cast into the fire, “is burnt”, but “burneth”, i. e. burns for ever without being consumed.

Prayer in the Name of Jesus. Our Lord solemnly asseverates (“Amen, amen, I say unto you”) that we shall be heard if we pray in His name. We pray in the name of Jesus when we pray with full confidence in His merits, and in the mind and spirit of Jesus. This promise of our Lord ought to impel us to pray to Almighty God with great confidence.

APPLICATION. Are you a living branch of the vine? Are you in a state of grace? If you are in a state of mortal sin and have thus forfeited sanctifying grace, and if you die in that state, you must go to hell. If you are so unhappy as to commit a mortal sin, remain not in a state of sin, but do penance, and confess your sin as soon as ever you can, so that you may become once more a child of God, and a living branch of the vine.

As we can do nothing without the assistance of God’s grace, we require many graces every day of our lives. Now, since we can obtain grace only by prayer, you see how necessary prayer is. Pray, therefore, devoutly every day that you may obtain grace and be saved. You must be especially careful about your morning and night prayers.

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