In two weeks we celebrate the great feast of Pentecost. The Gospel reading today helps prepare us for this celebration. In John’s Gospel Jesus prepares the apostles for his departure. He refers to his arrest, conviction and execution. He gives the apostles words of encouragement as they will face many difficulties and tells them about the Holy Spirit, who will be with them.
The Holy Spirit is described in many ways: Comforter, Advocate, Counselor and Helper. Yes, the Spirit comforts us in our failures, frustrations, loss and grief. The Spirit doesn’t come in and scoop away our sadness. The Spirit will help us carry a heavy You cannot manipulate the Spirit to give you pleasant emotions. You cannot always trust joy and peace. It is easy to mistake false joy for true spirituality, and false peace for genuine peace. The Spirit will help us work through difficult emotions to bring us closer to Jesus, giving us confidence even though our emotions might be confused and upsetting.
The Spirit is our Advocate, someone who is willing to stand up publicly to speak out on your behalf, like a defense attorney. The Spirit knows all about us, yet the Spirit declares us innocent because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Spirit makes the motion to dismiss all charges against us because of our faith in Jesus Christ. The Spirit always sees you as you can be, not as we or others condemn us for failures. Remember, the Spirit does not plead your good works or your fine intentions, but the Spirit pleads Christ for you.
We also know the Spirit as Counselor. The Spirit can untangle the greatest personal dilemmas we get ourselves into. By ourselves the way through these impasses seem impossible. The Spirit is the wisest of counselors. The Spirit doesn’t give us pithy clichés or quick-fix solutions. The Spirit gives us wisdom and understanding beyond what we can imagination.
Finally, the Spirit is the Helper. The Spirit gives you the aid that you most need at the right time. That help might not be to get you out of a difficult situation; it might be the help to get us through the difficulty. The help is not just a casual assistance, as if you could do most of the work and the Spirit adds a little bit more. When we experience our spiritual helplessness, we come to understand the enormous help that the Spirit offers.
Jesus said that he talked about the Spirit so that we would not fall away. "When [the] hour comes you may remember [what] I told you" about the comfort, advocacy, counsel and help the Spirit will give you.
Fr. Donald A. Webber, C.P., is Provincial Superior of Holy Cross Province and resides in Chicago.