6th Sunday of Easter
Gospel Reflection: John 14:15-21 By Fr. Alcuin Hurl, FHS
In this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus promises that the Father will send another advocate who will abide with us forever. Who is this other advocate?
This new advocate is the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. This is the first of seven times (the number of perfection and creation) that Jesus promises the gift of the Holy Spirit to the disciples when he leaves. Advocate is the Latin version of the Greek word Paraclete which literally means “to call to one’s side.” This is a word that comes from the Greek courtrooms where one would have a counselor or paraclete who would give counsel, plead a person’s cause, or intercede with the judge in a court case. In a way this means that the Holy Spirit is our lawyer who has never lost a case because his Father is the judge. How could we lose a case with such a wonderful helper and mediator?
Jesus is the first advocate but he is going to the Father and so he asks the Father to send another advocate to the us the Church. This is why in the Trinitarian theology speaks about the Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son or through the Son. The Father like a divine monarch or source who eternally begets the Son and from him the Spirit primarily proceeds.
St. Irenaeus calls the Spirit and the Son the two hands of the Father through which he acts upon earth. In the inner life of the Trinity the Father not only begets the son but also gives him the Holy Spirit and the Son breaths back this gift upon the Father. This may sound rather abstract and technical but it is actually good news for us for when Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit upon the Church both in the upper room on Easter Sunday and on Pentecost when he sends the might rushing wind the Church is caught up in the inner divine life of giving and receiving between the Father and the Son. This is why Thomas Aquinas calls the Holy Spirit the love between the Father and the Son. We are caught up in this life of love between the Father and the Son when the Father sends us the spirit in the name of Jesus.
The Fathers of the Church saw the whole goal of the Christian life as nothing more and nothing less than receiving the Holy Spirit. St. Athanasius says: “The Word took flesh that we might receive the Spirit.” Also St. Francis says the goal of the Gospel life was “to above all things seek the Spirit of the Lord and his holy action.” By acquiring the Spirit we are caught up in the life of the Trinity and are divinized or become God’s by grace. The Word became man so we could become gods.
So how do we receive the Spirit? First by faith: we read the word of God and the seven promises of Jesus and choose to believe his words and meditate on them.
Second by prayer: we remember his name is the one you call upon to your side to help you. Begin your day with prayer to the Holy Spirit. Here is a prayer from the Eastern Church: “O heavenly King, O Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, everywhere present and filling all things, the treasury of blessings and giver of life, come and abide in us. Cleanse us from all impurity, and of Your goodness save our souls.”
Third by the sacraments: There is an epiclesis or calling down of the Spirit in all seven sacraments and so when we receive them we receive the Spirit. For instance, the Priest calls down the Holy Spirit upon the waters of Baptism and upon the gifts on the altar in Eucharist. The priest also calls on the Holy Spirit to forgive our sins in confession and there is a special blessing called down upon the newly married couple at marriage and the priest at ordination. By reading the word, praying to the Holy Spirit and participating in the sacraments regularly we always have the Holy Spirit helping overcome all obstacles in our lives. Nothing is more practical. Nothing is more blessed.