I vividly remember Dean Henry’s initial invitation to our “Wednesday Evening Bible Study,” originally entitled “The ‘Jesus Way’ Bible Study” in our weekly bulletin. I was intrigued by the last sentence in his posting: “No expertise in Bible Study is necessary, not even helpful. So, come and join us,” This last sentence spoke directly to me and gave me the courage to give it a try and see what it was all about. In retrospect, I can’t help but think that Dean, like John, was carefully selecting his words for the way in which they struck us or to use the current vernacular, resonated with us.
We have come to learn over the years that John’s Gospels defy literal translation and ask that we suspend our intellect and allow the words to become flesh in us and take them to our hearts so that we might intuitively feel their presence and know the Spirit. Padovano tells us that Jesus will never be found by those who reduce faith to words or doctrines or who limit religious behavior to moral exercises or spiritual behavior. Perhaps Dean had John in mind when he suggested that prior expertise or literal knowledge of the Bible may not be helpful. So, in our Gospel (John 14:15-21) Jesus says: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him.”
Have we ever seen the Holy Spirit? This is not a trick question. Let’s think for a moment. The best description we get in the Bible of the Holy Spirit are tongues of flame or a freely blowing breeze. However, in this week's reading we get two helpful hints that offer a pretty good picture of just what the Holy Spirit looks like.
The Holy Spirit looks like an Advocate --the one who stands up for you when you need it; the one who speaks on your behalf; the one who lends you a helping hand, takes your side, and won't leave you while you're down.
The Holy Spirit looks like Jesus. The Spirit is "another advocate" because Jesus is the first. The Spirit, Jesus goes on to say, will abide with us and is sent in Jesus' name to remind us of what he taught. In a very real way, the Spirit affirms Jesus presence in us and through us, and helps to keep his promise that he will not leave us orphaned. You know him, because he abides with you, and lives with us
An advocate is defined as one who upholds and defends a cause or person, and intercedes on the part of another. Yes, we've seen the Spirit many times in those who share the love of Christ, and stand up for one another. They are advocates. And unfortunately, we have also seen the adversaries to the first Advocate, Jesus, in the Pharisees who as with the proverbial “brood of vipers,” were self-righteous in the preservation of their egoistic demands, quick to judge and condemn and eventually put an end to Jesus, while destroying and dividing his community in order to serve their own purpose, and not God’s.
John’s Gospel is as relevant today as it was when it was written two thousand years ago. There are advocates for the love of God in our midst…and there are adversaries.
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.