At times a very powerful message in the Scriptures gets obscured simply because there are so many other powerful messages to be found there. This Sunday's Gospel text is a good example of that.
Unfortunately, it seems to me, most Christians tend to see God as "the man upstairs" or a God who is out there someplace. They may believe that God loves them. Perhaps they pray often, but they do not realize not only that God is close to them, but that God desires to be united with them, not only in the next life, but now.
The Church, over the next few weeks, will be celebrating what I like to call the fruits of Christ's Resurrection--His return to the Father, the sending of the Holy Spirit and finally the mystery of the Trinity. Everyone who recites the Creed on Sunday believes that Jesus ascended to the Father, that He sent the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and that He is one with the Father and the Spirit (Trinity). The problem is that most think of the first two as wonderful things that happened to Jesus and the Trinity as some unexplainable doctrine that we go along with but that we don't understand. The truth is that all of us participate in these wonderful mysteries. Jesus return to the Father allows the Spirit to come to us. Through Baptism and Confirmation the Holy Spirit dwells in us. In Baptism we are joined to the Body of Christ and we renew that reality every time that we celebrate the Eucharist. Jesus words then are so true. He is in the Father and they are in us. The Trinity is not just a doctrine but a deep gift of love into which we are drawn.
The picture that I chose at the top of this page shows the Coronation of Mary. She is surrounded by the Father and the Son with the dove above them representing the Spirit. Imagine the rest of us Christians in that picture along with her.
That's just too good to be true for so many. It's easier to keep God at arm's length. When we do that religion becomes a game in which we try to keep rules so that we can go to heaven. What Jesus wants of us is to be caught up in the great mystery of union with Him. When that happens we will be transformed more and more into the image of Christ and know that eternal life begins even now in this life. That is one of the underlying messages of John's Gospel.
Why do we resist this deeper understanding of our faith? Because we have to surrender. Love demands a response of love, a giving over of ourselves to God so that we can be transformed. When this happens on a large scale people will stop wondering why they have to go to Mass on Sunday, or making shallow statements about not needing Church to be a good person. The truth is that we don't need the Church to be good. We need Church to be holy, to be transformed. When we're willing to do that we wouldn't think of not celebrating the Eucharist or not taking advantage of any opportunity to grow closer to Christ.