Weekly Gospel Reflection — 25 May 2014
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. I will ask the Father, and he will send another Companion, who will be with you forever. This Companion is the Spirit of Truth, whom the world can’t receive because it neither sees him nor recognizes him. You know him, because he lives with you and will be with you.
“I won’t leave you as orphans. I will come to you. Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Because I live, you will live too. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them loves me. Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”
I can’t help but think of my time with the YWCA when I hear the word advocate. For those of you who don’t know, my wife and I worked there for a few years — me as the Network Administrator and her as the S.A.N.E. Coordinator. S.A.N.E. stands for, “Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner.” She and the other nurses would get called in when someone was raped. Those nurses would do the forensic examination, collect the evidence, and pass it on to the police. Sometimes, they would even have to testify in court as the expert witness.
One of the things that stood out to me was that each victim was assigned an advocate. Someone from the “Y” would be sent to be with the victim, to comfort, to listen, to plead her case to those around her (“her” because most victims of rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence are female). Those advocates and nurses are some of the strongest people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. The passion they have for justice, for caring for the victim, is unparalleled in my experience. Day or night, 24/7/365, those people were on the ready to stand for those who just don’t have the strength to do it anymore.
The passage today is still situated in the upper room. As we noted last week, it’s one of the most personal settings contained in the Gospels. Here, Jesus promises that he would send a “Companion” or “Comforter” to his hurting followers. In John’s telling of this story, the Companion, the Holy Spirit, is breathed into the disciples in the upper room (John 20.22).
That’s such a powerful image. Once more, John takes us back to Genesis. There, after Yahweh finished creating humanity, it says Yahweh “blew life’s breath into [the human’s] nostrils. The human came to life” (Genesis 2.7; CEB). In the New Creation, we, too, are given the breath of G‑d, the Holy Spirit.
But what does that mean?
The word used here the CEB translated as “Companion” is παράκλητος (paraklētos) and means “an advocate, one who pleads the cause of another.” In other words, Jesus sends an advocate. In this context, the Spirit’s role is to stand for those who can’t stand for themselves. To plead their case to anyone who will listen.
That’s an interesting point given that the Companion is also the breath of G‑d, the essence of G‑d. In using the word παράκλητος we see into the depth of G‑d. We see that G‑d is greatly concerned (as is clearly communicated throughout scripture) with those who are victims, those who need help, those who have been kicked to the curb by the powerful or those seeking power. We could say the Spirit of G‑d — the life-force of those who follow The Way of Jesus — is the advocate of those still being victimized by the powerful, whether human, non-human, or the earth itself.
Not only does the Companion empower those who follow The Way of Jesus, but Jesus himself promised to accompany those followers on their journeys. Notice he said that he wouldn’t leave them as orphans. Again, a powerful image because G‑d is concerned about the orphans, i.e., a child whose parents have died. This shows us another image of G‑d — Parent.
We know that Jesus has referred to G‑d as “Father” throughout the stories, but for someone to be called an “orphan” both parents must be dead or missing. Here, Jesus seems to indicate that he will fulfill the role of both “father” and “mother.” As St. Paul said, “We (i.e., humanity) are [G‑d’s] offspring” (Acts 17.28; CEB).
Not only that, but Jesus said when he appears to the disciples after his death and resurrection, they will know he’s “in [the] Father” and “[they] are in me” and he is in them. That means that G‑d is in them and they are in G‑d. (By the way, I think that’s how the Trinity works, too.) Again, St. Paul said, “In G‑d we live, move, and exist” (Acts 17.28; CEB). We are in Christ. Christ is in G‑d. We are, therefore, in G‑d. But Christ is also in us. Therefore, G‑d is within us, too. And energizing all of that is the Companion, the Advocate, the very life-force of G‑d.
I remember the first time I set foot in a church. I was in grade school. My neighbor and friend invited me to go with him. I remember thinking that this Jesus was the first person who had ever chosen me for something. That is, I wasn’t just the leftovers from a playground game of baseball. I wasn’t “stuck” with Jesus. He selected me. He chose me. He wanted to be with me. For the first time in my life, I felt special.
I think that’s what Jesus is trying to get across to his followers then and to his followers now. Whoever has his commandments and follows them — love G‑d with everything we have, love our neighbors like we love ourselves, love our enemies, too, and take care of the outcasts, the poor, the orphans and widows — not just the “church folk” but whoever, is loved by G‑d. G‑d has not abandoned us. The Companion, the very life-energy of G‑d, is breathed into us and we are made one with G‑d.
And that, my friends, is very comforting indeed.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC