Jesus said to his disciples, “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.
“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But, now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, `Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15.
Today is the Feast of the Pentecost, which serves as the terminus of the cycle which marks and celebrates the life of Christ. Easter has come and gone; Jesus has ascended to the Father. These events have filled the disciples’ hearts with sorrow. Their Rabbi, their friend, is returning home and leaving them.
In other sense, however, we sometimes refer to as the birthday of the Church. The Church must now learn to listen for the voice of God within the community of believers inspired by the Holy Spirit. Jesus describes the Spirit as the Advocate (in Greek, parakletos). The word parakletos connotes an advocate in a legal proceeding, who comes to the aid of a witness or a cause. Just so, the Spirit will come to assist the disciples as they bear witness to the message of Jesus. The term parakletos also connotes a comforter, an assistant and a companion.
Jesus has assured us of the presence of the Advocate, of the immediacy of the Spirit. He promises that the Spirit will lead us into the truth. The Spirit will direct us through and to faith, a radical trust in the life and message of Jesus. Our Orthodox brothers and sisters refer to this process as theosis, a journey through which our lives become more and more deeply entwined with the life of the Father and the Son. Remembering the image of Jesus as the vine, through the Spirit the life of the Father and the Son is grafted onto our lives, our history.
The reading today points also to the unity and interdependence of the Trinity. Jesus teaches that “all that the Father has is mine” and that the Spirit will take what belongs to Jesus and declare it to us. Jesus teaches that no member of the Trinity acts independently; similarly we need to learn to live interdependently. Pentecost involves learning to trust God as a companion, and learning to trust each other.
Henri Nouwen once wrote that “education to ministry is an education not to master God but to be mastered by God.” Pentecost involves listening for the Trinitarian voice within the Church and in the world. That voice will remain near us and within us. Jesus promised us that the Spirit of Truth would offer us that sense of comfort, that sense of confidence, that sense of peace.
James R. Dennis, O.P.
© 2012 James R. Dennis