Readings: Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; 1 Peter 3:15-18; John 14:15-21
As we draw closer to Pentecost, our readings refer us to the coming of the Advocate–or more correctly–the other Advocate, since Jesus was our original Advocate.
This coming of the Holy Spirit is tricky if taken too literally. The image can imply that the Spirit is presently absent and will eventually become present. But where would we be if the Spirit of God was not already indwelling? What would have prevented our muddled world from imploding without the spirit working through creation? Would the crazy, inconsistent human race have even lasted a generation on its own?
We baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit–and yet we talk about the Spirit coming to the already baptized Christian in the Sacrament of Confirmation. All the same, we’d never say that the Spirit had been absent before confirmation; the sacrament confirms, re-enforces the presence already there.
As Jesus tells the Apostles, mixing tenses: But you know him [the Spirit], because he remains with you, and will be in you.
Can’t I see in my own life phases oblivious of the Spirit of God and phases impregnated, infused, filled with the Spirit?
Perhaps today’s Gospel describes a familiar pedagogy. If Jesus says, I will not leave you orphans, isn’t he addressing a fear of the Apostles as he alludes to his departure from them? Isn’t this a basic experience of the spiritual life? Aren’t there people who communicate to us this or that aspect of the personality of Jesus? Don’t we all look up to someone who has made concrete the healing touch of Jesus, his tenderness, obedience or his joy? And being people–Jesus included–we can’t hold on to them like a key chain or a rabbit’s foot. One way or another they’ll be gone and we’ll feel the loss.
Paradoxically, if I don’t flee the loss, bit by bit, I’ll discover a deeper presence–even a capacity within myself–to be that impossible, unachievable graciousness that someone else once bestowed upon me. But I can only “arrive” there though loss.
But, I will not leave you orphans…I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him.
Is that why we speak of the coming of the Holy Spirit? Is it because of what I must let go of for the reality of the Spirit to dawn on me?