(John 14:15-21) Whenever I read the Gospels, I try to put myself in the scene, to imagine what it would have felt like to be there. Reading today’s Gospel, I couldn’t help but think how confused the disciples must have been by Jesus’ words. I’m sure they wondered how they could possibly continue to see Him after He was gone, when He was no longer visible to the world.
They loved Jesus and had given up everything to follow Him. They had come to depend on Him – for His friendship, teaching, and example. How would they carry on without Him, much less know what God was asking of them? Jesus understood that their hearts were troubled and that His hour would soon be upon Him. Knowing that He couldn’t remain with them forever, at least not bodily, He nevertheless wanted to strengthen and console them. Yet what He offered was no mere consolation prize!
When His days on earth were over, Jesus would still be with them, but in a much different way. He had no intention of leaving them to figure it our on their own, promising instead to send “another Counsellor” in His place: His very Spirit dwelling within them. He said, “I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you” (Jn 14:18). For Christians, the role of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, is significant, for He guides, teaches, and opens us up to the grace of God in our souls. Without the Holy Spirit, we couldn’t begin to plumb the depths of our faith – those realities that don’t necessarily defy human logic, but transcend it. One of the Early Church Fathers described it in this way:
“We receive the Spirit of truth so that we can know the things of God. In order to grasp this, consider how useless the faculties of the human body would become if they were denied their exercise. Our eyes cannot fulfill their task without lights, either natural or artificial; our ears cannot react without sound vibrations, and in the absence of any odor our nostrils are ignorant of their function. Not that these senses would lose their own nature if they were not used; rather, they demand objects of experience in order to function. It is the same with the human soul. Unless it absorbs the gift of the Spirit through faith, the mind has the ability to know God but lacks the light necessary for that knowledge.”1
As His disciples, Jesus offers this gift to us too through the sacraments of the Church. Beginning with baptism, we receive the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands and anointing with oil.2 We come to experience this “quiet guest of our soul,”3 in many ways – as the still, small voice of conscience, through Scripture, in the words of the priest and our Holy Father, and many other means.4 Amazingly, the Spirit of God himself comes to dwell within us, and by this gift we not only know what we have to do, but have been given the power to do it.5 We can see Him with the eyes of our hearts and trust that He is alive and at work within us, leading and guiding us into the way of all truth.
– Kelley Holy
1From the treatise On the Trinity by Saint Hilary, bishop
(Lib. 2, 1, 33. 35: PL 10, 50-51. 73-75).
2 Youcat: Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church, 115.
3 St. Augustine’s description of the Holy Spirit, Ibid, 120.
5 Youcat, 203.