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“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him. But you know him, because he remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live.” —John 14:8-9
In her book, Fragments of Your Ancient Name, Servite Sister Joyce Rupp includes this reflection on the Holy Spirit:
Suddenly, without warning,
The burst of your presence
Floods the room. Then,
an entire house fills with power.
The intensity of your nearness
Releases the prisoners of fear
and opens their hearts wide.
Each one is filled with your breath.
Astonished and empowered,
New abilities arise within them.
The image of the wind filling the house and blowing open what was closed recalls the first Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended upon Mary and the Apostles as they prayed in the days after Jesus ascended into heaven (cf. Acts 2:1-4). This is the “Advocate,” the “Spirit of Truth,” that Jesus promises us in this Sunday’s Gospel.
But, who is the Holy Spirit and why do we spend so much time during the Easter Season reflecting on the gift of the Spirit?
Sister Barbara Reid addresses this question in her book Abiding Word: Sunday Reflections for Year A. Noting that this Sunday’s Gospel is taken from a part of John’s Gospel known as the “Farewell Discourse,” we find Jesus assuring his disciples that he will not leave them orphaned. “They will not be homeless,” she writes, “and will not need to be cared for by strangers. He promised to send ‘another Advocate’ to be with them always.” This “Advocate” is the Paraklētos—the Paraclete. This Greek word literally means “called to the side” of another, but there are other meanings of the word, as well. “Paraclete” can also have legal connotations, including “advocate” or even “defense attorney.” But, as Reid and other Scripture scholars observe, the fullest meaning of the word refers to someone who intercedes or makes appeals on behalf of another person.
By promising to send this Advocate, Jesus is telling his closest followers that even though he could no longer be with them, his Spirit would remain with them, encouraging them, defending them, and guiding them as they continued his mission of mercy through their own work of sharing the Good News. This is what we discover in the Acts of the Apostles, as we hear about the joys and struggles of the Early Church. The Holy Spirit—as Advocate, Comforter, and Defender—was inspiring the Apostles to throw open the doors and leave their places of security to go out to those who needed to experience God’s healing and forgiving love. They were only able to do that because of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit at work among them and within them.
The Second Reading of this Sunday’s liturgy (1 Peter 3:15-18) helps us understand what this means for us, as we are reminded that we should “always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” The abiding presence of the Spirit—at work in the Church and in our hearts and souls—is why we, as Christians, are able to stand against injustice and violence and remind the world that true peace and justice can only come from God.
In the end, the invitation for us this Sunday is to reflect on how we understand the Holy Spirit and to open our minds and hearts to the Spirit’s transforming love. We must also remember that the comfort and consolation the Spirit offers us aren’t mean to give us permission to stay in the security of our families and churches. Instead, we are being called to go out and to be Apostles for our time.
How do you feel the Holy Spirit nudging you to a more active faith? What needs do you recognize in your community and in the world that the Spirit might be asking you to address?
When has the presence of the Holy Spirit offered you comfort and consolation when you have faced difficult times in your life?
Words of Wisdom: “Christ gives you his Spirit, who can guide you to the fullness of truth and love. May Christ be the reason for your hope: with him you will have nothing to fear, for he is the indestructible mainstay of all human life.”—Pope Saint John Paul II