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The Promise of the Paraclete

Fr. Scott A. Haynes


It has been said that “the Holy Spirit leaves no footprints.” In other words, the work of the Holy Spirit is mysterious. The disciples of the Lord could not even begin to understand the Paschal Mystery—how Christ would defeat death on the Cross—until they beheld Christ accomplish the works of our Redemption. Nor did they fathom how, after Jesus’ triumphal Ascension into heaven, they would receive the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

Our Lord, in His kindness, perceives the apprehension of His disciples, and so He comforts them, saying:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in Me.” [1]
In seeking to console them, Jesus teaches them about the Holy Spirit. He seems to be telling them that the best way to prepare for His absence is to open their hearts to receive the Holy Spirit.

The Apostles were saddened at hearing Jesus say to them:
“I tell you the truth: it is expedient to you that I go: for if I go not, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” [2]
Our Resurrected Lord moderated their sadness. He told them that, in His stead, the Paraclete, [3] the Comforter, is about to descend upon the earth, and abide in the Church until the end of time, in order that He may give Christ’s faithful light and strength.

Christ says that the Holy Spirit will “teach you all truth.” [4] Here we see the promise of the teaching Church, which will be led by the Holy Spirit. At no time during His earthly life does Our Blessed Savior reveal all things to His disciples. In fact, it appears clear from their actions that they do not really understand the little He does tell them.

Yet, Our Lord promises that the Holy Spirit will reveal all truth to them. [5] This is a two-fold process: first, the Holy Spirit will reveal divine truths to the Apostles, who will pass it on by both written and spoken testimonies. [6] Then, through the centuries, the Holy Spirit will continue to guide the Church by deepening her understanding of those revelations.

The Holy Spirit will also convict the world of “justice and judgement.” [7] Christ says this is “because I go to the Father, and…because the prince of this world is already judged.” [8] In a sense, Christ is saying that the Holy Spirit will formally declare in a court of law what has happened through Christ’s Passion, death, and Resurrection: that Satan, the prince of this world, is defeated. Satan may still have some power left to win battles and skirmishes, but he has already lost the war.

St. John, the Beloved Apostle of the Lord, calls Jesus our Paraclete. [9] Some Bibles translate this into the phrase, “one who speaks to the Father in our defense.” A Paraclete is one who is an Advocate, one who is “called alongside of” someone for a purpose. St. John assures us in his first epistle that when we sin, Christ our Paraclete is there in heaven defending us on the basis of His shed blood, pleading our case because of the propitiation He has made for us. Jesus Christ is the Paraclete. But on Pentecost, God the Father sends His Church another Paraclete [10]—the Holy Spirit. It is for that reason that the Holy Spirit is called “another Comforter.”

Whenever we use the word “comfort” today, we typically mean a relative absence of pain or inconvenience. It is unfortunate that the word has not retained its original meaning. “Comfort” is a word taken from the two Latin words cum forte (“with strength”). As the “other” Comforter, the Holy Spirit, comes to us with strength in the midst of the battle, not just when the battle is over, and not just when the dust has settled and we are counting our bruises. The Spirit of God comes to us to enable us to stand strong during the onslaught of temptation and pressure that tries to mold us into conformity with the world.

Such is the reason that Christ’s comfort to His disciples comes in the midst of an emphasis on obedience. [11] Those who obey the word of Christ are, by definition, in the battle and therefore need the comfort (strength) of the Holy Spirit as they fight the spiritual war. All of us are called to battle. Some of our battles are more internal than external, battles of physical or emotional health, battles with the onslaught of pervasive sins, addictions, and temptations. Some of our battles are more external than internal—battles of persecution, of unjust hatred [12] or with others who seek to oppose our faith. The Apostle St. Paul obviously experienced the full extent of tribulation. He was “hard pressed on every side.” [13] St. Paul was perplexed (internal) and persecuted (external). But the Apostle to the Gentiles knew what his Master had told his disciples.

The Spirit of truth has come to be another Paraclete for Christ’s faithful, to stand alongside of us with strength during the battle so that with Paul we can say we are neither despairing nor forsaken nor destroyed.[14] No battle is so fierce, no temptation so strong that the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, cannot provide for us the strength to be obedient when the pressure is the most intense. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in Me.” [15]

Notes:
[1] John 14:1. [2] John 16:7. The Holy Spirit is the One who has been sent by Christ to glorify Him (John 16:14) by fulfilling on earth what the Paraclete fulfills in heaven. Jesus will send the Holy Spirit from the Father (John 15:26-27). He is called the “Spirit of truth” (also John 14:17 and John 16:13). He will testify or witness concerning Jesus. He is spoken of as a Person (John 14:26; 15:16, 26). [3] Paraklētos is an adjective formed from the verb parakaleō, which has the basic meaning, “call to one's side” for help (Liddell-Scott, Greek-English Lexicon) or the purpose of helping, “called to one's aid,” in a court of justice, and used as a substantive, “legal assistant, advocate,” The Paraclete will teach (didaskō) the disciples all things (John 14:25-26). The Spirit's function of testifying about Jesus is closely related to reminding the disciples what Jesus taught (John 14:26b). Since the word paraklētos can have a legal flavor, it is particularly appropriate alongside another word from the legal realm, martyreō, “to confirm or attest something on the basis of personal knowledge or belief, bear witness, be a witness, offer testimony.” Martyreō comes from the legal sphere. The Spirit presents Christ's case for him before the believers and the world. [4] John 14:26. [5] John 16:13. [6] cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:15. [7] “When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment.” John 16:8. [8] John 16:10-11. [9] “My little children, these things I write to you, that you may not sin. But if any man sin, we have an Advocate (Paraclete) with the Father, Jesus Christ the just.” 1 John 2:1. [10] “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor (Parakletos) to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you.” John 14:15-17. [11] John 14:15, 21, 23, 24. [12] John 15:25. [13] 2 Corinthians 4:8. [14] See 2 Corinthians 4:7f. [15] John 14:1.
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