A few months ago, the daughter of some friends of mine invited me to a “Bee” party. As I was not familiar with the term “Bee party,” I had to inquire discreetly as to what the invitation meant. I learned that a “Bee party” is a gathering at which the gender of an expected child is revealed to family and friends. My friends’ daughter was pregnant with her first child; she and her husband were keeping the baby’s gender and name secret until the public revelation of what the baby was going to “be.”
I couldn’t help myself; I felt compelled to have some fun at the expense of my friends, the future grandparents. I emailed names to consider for their expected grandchild. I suggested Bee-atrice, if it was a girl or Bee-owulf, if a boy. As alternatives, I suggested Bjork or Bjorn. I asked them if they hoping for a Queen or a drone. Would the father buy it a Volkswagen Beetle when it pupates? Perhaps, the baby would have artistic talents and grow up to be a “B” movie actor.
The baby was born about a month ago, to great fanfare. She’s a beautiful child, and her family is ecstatic over her birth. All her relatives have high hopes for her, but much remains unknown about her young life. For example, her talents and desires are yet to be discovered. There are many choices that lay ahead of her; she’ll also face some disappointments. It isn’t possible for anyone to know what the future holds for her.
Most of what happens in life does so without regard to one’s choices or wishes or the hopes of one’s family and friends. Although it’s not possible to know future events, it is possible to choose what kind of person one wants to be.
Today’s Gospel reading is taken from Jesus’ farewell discourse to his disciples. At his last supper with them he said, “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love” (Jn. 15:10)
Within the context of the Gospel, this statement is about a theological concept called “indwelling.” John’s Gospel puts a great deal of emphasis on the unseen, interior, relational effects of faith in Jesus. One of those unseen, interior effects of faith in Jesus is that the Spirit of Jesus dwells in the heart of the believer; this Spirit makes God the Father present to each faithful disciple.
In addition to being a statement about a particular theological issue, Jesus’ statement is also practical advice. The statement, “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love” (Jn. 15:10), indicates the perceptible effects of faith. When we live according to Jesus’ teachings (his commandments), we remain connected to him by both our own intentions and his promises to his disciples.
Our intentional connection to Jesus, and our following of his commandments, has a perceptible effect on us in addition to the unseen, interior effects. God’s Spirit dwells in our hearts when we follow the Lord’s commands, and this is manifest in our choices and actions. Because of the perceptible effects of faith in Jesus, we can determine the course of the future of our lives. Although there are many things about which we are given no choice, our commitments are our own. Our choice to follow Jesus’ commands will form us into a particular type of people, namely, his disciples.
Someone asked me recently whether I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. If I had to give a short answer to that question, I might say that I want to be the type of person whose life reflects regular participation in the Eucharist.
At the Last Supper, Jesus demonstrated the generosity, trustworthiness, and forgiveness that he had preached about throughout his ministry. Eucharist provides us with both a model of these virtues and God’s help in practicing them. In the Offertory, we give ourselves to God by placing our offerings on the Altar. In receiving Holy Communion, we pledge our faith to God and our mutual support to one another. When we leave church after Mass has concluded, we are sent to continue Jesus’ mission to the whole world.
A great deal of what happens to us today and throughout our lives will be a matter of random chance. While we have very little choice about how historical events unfold around us, we have complete control over the kind of people we want to be. In this Eucharist, Jesus invites us to let the Spirit of God fill our spirits in order that we might grow into the image of his generosity, faithfulness, and forgiveness. What do you want to be when you grow up?