In his discourse with the disciples at the Last Supper, Jesus offers consolation to the disciples, who are beginning to realize that he is about to leave them, that the Father will send “another Advocate to be with you always.”
When reading this passage we always gloss over a very important word – “another.” The word is clearly present in the Greek and there is no use of the indefinite article, “an” so that the passage does not read “I will send another, an advocate …” What this means then is that the Father has already sent an advocate to be with the disciples.
What we can see as we move through the John’s Gospel is a gradual unfolding of the mystery of the Trinity. From the very beginning Jesus is presented to the hearer as the Incarnation of the Divine LOGOS. Throughout the Gospel, Jesus not only points to the Father, but he also emphasizes and often repeats the nature of the particular relationship between himself and the Father. “The Father and I are one” he tells the crowds who ask him who he is.
This teaching makes the relationship between Jesus and the Jewish people far more difficult than we see it presented in the synoptic Gospels. The people struggle to understand this special relationship – this identification with Jesus and the Father. A Jewish audience who hold to the absolute oneness of God and who find representing God in a physical form as blasphemous, the unfolding teaching on the part of Jesus that “he who has seen me has seen the Father,” would find his teaching revolting.
While there have been allusions to the Holy Spirit in the Gospel – “unless a person is born of water and Spirit …” – it is not until the very end of his ministry that Jesus more clearly speaks of the Holy Spirit to his disciples.
Jesus, then, must be seen as the first advocate sent to Israel. He is distinct from the other prophets in a far clearer way in John’s Gospel than he is in the synoptics. Indeed, Jesus is presented as having much more in common with the Father than he does with the prophets, teachers of the past, and certainly than of his disciples and the crowds.
An advocate is one who speaks on behalf of another. We use that term even today for someone who works a person who may not be capable of fully understanding or representing themselves in a situation. The term is most often associated with a lawyer in the ancient texts. So, Jesus speaks on behalf of God. He is the one we listen to; the one whose voice we know and heed. As an advocate of the Father, Jesus is also the face of God. In John’s Gospel when we see Jesus, we see God. John makes this absolutely clear to us from the very beginning.
The second advocate is the Holy Spirit. Unlike Jesus whose face the disciples could see and whose voice the disciples could hear, the Holy Spirit does not become incarnate. Rather it is the Spirit who guides the Church and continues to inspire the Church to teach what Jesus taught and to understand and apply the teaching of Jesus to new peoples and successive generations.
Jesus taught his disciples a definitive word. Jesus taught with authority – the authority of God himself. That same authority must continue with the disciples and in the Church for all ages, to insure that the teaching of Jesus would remain steadfast and authentic for all generations.
This, then, is the promise of another advocate for the Church: that the Holy Spirit will allow the Church to continue to speak with the authority of Jesus. The Holy Spirit – whose coming we anticipate now as we look forward to Pentecost – is God’s gift to the Church, so that we might all be faithful disciples.
May 28 – As Jesus prays for the disciples, he strengthens and encourages the Church
In the Gospel selection for this Last Sunday of the Easter Season, Jesus prays for his disciples as he prepares to take leave of them and send them out into the world to proclaim all that they have seen and heard. In praying for those who were with him at the Last Supper, he prays also for us – for the Church of every age and place – that we might heed the word he has given us.
The prayer opens with the declaration: “Father, the hour has come.” For those who are familiar with John’s Gospel we know that at the beginning when Mary comes to Jesus at the wedding feast in Cana, Jesus tells her that his hour had not yet come. Reading carefully through the Gospel we note with what frequency the evangelist emphasizes the time of day that Jesus is performing the various signs in his ministry. Now, with all things standing on the verge of completion, Jesus proclaims the coming of the hour.
The hour is that of the exaltation or the glorification of the Son of God. Jesus is not going to be carried off and enthroned as a king nor is he adored and worshiped as the Son of God. Instead his exaltation, his glorification, is the enthronement and the adoration of the Cross that was the instrument of death. The ironic turn in the Gospel then is that in Jesus’s humiliation is his glorification. This stands as the ultimate rejection of Jesus – indeed of God in the person of Jesus – by the world. We can see as we contemplate the full Gospel passage here that Jesus stands rejected by the world and prays that the disciples are not overcome by the world.
It is this rejection of and by the world that will stand as a hallmark of Jesus’s prayer for the disciples and for all of us who claim to be disciples of Jesus as well.
Being a disciple of Jesus – specifically being a Catholic – ought to make us uncomfortable. There are very clear and distinct ways that we stand by virtue of our faith and moral discipline in stark opposition to the values and principles of the world. The rift between the Catholic and the world grows deeper with each passing year. To a large extent this is distressing – not because it makes us uncomfortable – but because it shows that the impact that we as Catholics have on the world is diminishing, not growing stronger.
While on one level this is a cause for distress, it is also the very reality for which Jesus prepared the disciples and us in the discourse and prayer at the Last Supper. The world – those who do not heed the Gospel – will always be hostile to the Gospel. They are threatened by the message and cannot tolerate the power that comes through weakness, the glorification that comes from suffering, and the humility that leads to exaltation.
These are not easy times to proclaim and live the Gospel, but it is the time above all when this is what we are called to do. We have received the Word – handed on to us by the Church – and so we must then act. First we carefully listen to and accept the Word. We cannot go off on our own or separate ourselves from the Church. To do so causes us to become inauthentic and no better than the world that opposes us.
Then we must authentically hand that Word on to others. The call to evangelize the world is the constant with being a disciple. We have no other choice. Even though the world will harshly resist us, persecute us, and try to extinguish us, we must still boldly live and proclaim that Word because, as Jesus tells us, the world cannot overcome the Word – the darkness cannot repel the light – the Son ultimately achieves mastery over the world.
Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.[[In-content Ad]]