Gospel for Pentecost (24 May 2015)
Notes by Michael Whelan SM
"When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning."
"I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you." (John 15:26-27 & 16:12-15 – NRSVCE)
"Pentecost is a feast of the Law of Moses originally known as the feast of Weeks (Deut 16:10) or the feast of Harvest (Exod 23:16). Later, among Greek-speaking Jews, the feast came to be called Pentecost (Tob
2:1). The Greek penētkostē means "fiftieth" and refers to the timing of the festival, which took place fifty days after the spring celebration of Passover (Lev 23:15–16). Pentecost became a Christian feast when the Holy Spirit rushed down on the apostles seven weeks after Jesus celebrated his final Passover (Acts 2:1–4). (Scott Hahn, (Ed.), Catholic Bible Dictionary, Doubleday, 2009, 693.)
The Greek word paraklētos (παράκλητος) has the sense of 'one who is called to someone's aid'. It is commonly translated as 'advocate' – from the Latin vocatus meaning 'called' and ad meaning 'to' or 'towards'. It is also translated as 'helper' or 'intercessor'.
The disciple has a role similar to that of the Advocate: "You also are to testify."
See John 14:16–17: "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever." And John 14:26: "But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you."
Compare some other references to the Holy Spirit in the Christian Scriptures:
- Matthew 3:11: "I (ie John the Baptist) baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." (See also Mark 1:8 and Luke 3:16.)
- Luke introduces the Holy Spirit at the beginning – "The angel said to (Mary), 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will
be called Son of God" (Luke 1:35). He concludes with the Holy Spirit: "And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). He also introduces the Book of Acts with the Holy Spirit: "In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen" (Acts 1:1-2).
- St Paul speaks frequently of the Holy Spirit, for example: Romans 8:5-6: "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace." (See similarly Galatians 5:19-23). Romans 8:11: "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead
dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you." 2 Corithians 3:17-18: "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit." Ephesians 4:4-6: "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all."
- Their experience of the resurrection notwithstanding, the departure of Jesus must have been a hugely significant moment for the disciples. What happens now!
- This forced the disciples to recall Jesus' teaching and reflect at length, together and alone, on that teaching. They remembered how he behaved, how he treated various people, what his priorities were. They thought of all the events they'd lived through with him. Thus an oral tradition was born. That oral tradition was committed to writing – in the case of John's Gospel – perhaps 70 or more years after Jesus' departure.
- As we have noted in previous reflections on John's Gospel, the idea of a mutual 'abiding' – see for example John 15 – is very strong. That mutual 'abiding' continues through the presence of the Holy Spirit. The same teaching, guidance and life-giving strength that the disciples drew from the physical presence of Jesus, will now be given by the Holy Spirit.