St. Thomas Aquinas says, “Now that which is preponderant in the law of the New Testament, and whereon all its efficacy is based, is the grace of the Holy Spirit, which is given through faith in Christ. Consequently, the New Law is chiefly the grace itself of the Holy Spirit, which is given to those who believe in Christ.” He then quotes St. Augustine, who says, “What else are the Divine laws written by God Himself on our hearts, but the very presence of His Holy Spirit?” (Summa, I-II, q. 106).
The law of God is not prescriptions, directions, commands or teachings. The law of God in Christ is a person, the divine Holy Spirit living and abiding in the hearts of the baptized.
This gives us some sense of why the Church turns now, so very close to the great feast of the Holy Spirit, to this passage in John’s gospel relating the marvelous exchange between Jesus and Peter. “‘Simon, son of John, do you love me’…‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you’…‘Feed my lambs.’” Jesus, having already breathed his Spirit on the disciples, now invites Peter to discern the movement of that Spirit in his heart. The very presence of the Holy Spirit in the heart of Peter moves him in love for Jesus, for God and the same presence of the Spirit moves Peter out in loving service to the people of God.
The law of love for God and for neighbor is living in our hearts as the person of the Holy Spirit inclining us to love. Jesus invites us to discern this saving presence of the Spirit in us. “Do you love me…will you heed the Spirit to loving service toward your brother and sister?”
Let us pray:
O God, who by the glorification of your Christ
and the light of the Holy Spirit
have unlocked for us the gates of eternity,
grant that, partaking of so great a gift,
our love may grow deeper
and our faith be increasingly brought to life.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.
(adapted from the Roman Missal)