Jesus, among other things, promises that the Holy Spirit of God will come after he has left them:
The Advocate, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything
and remind you of all that I told you.
Surely this is not a new idea, for the Spirit of God appears as in the opening sentences of Genesis:
“In the beginning there was a formless void and the Spirit of God hovered over the waters … “
As Fr. Ron Rolheiser suggests, the Spirit is the very life force of the universe, breathing it into existence, and being the “glue” if you will, that animates and orchestrates it.
Jesus thus suggests that this Spirit of God, present since before the beginning, will be a personal presence in the lives of all who welcome it into their lives. The Spirit represents that personalized God who dwells intimately with His people.
The Father, so Jesus explains, sends His Spirit in Jesus’ name, as a sign to us that what we have learned from Jesus is in fact the Father’s will. We begin to see the interplay in this trinity of love, God, Redeemer, and Holy Spirit. All are one, one are all, each a part, yet not separate, each with its own duties, yet doing the will of all. This is mystery in its finest manifestation.
We can trust this Spirit as being of God, because Jesus has told us it can be trusted. It will teach us everything. It will remind us of what Jesus taught. Strange and opaque words are they not?
It is said by some that Vatican II showed the in-pouring of the Spirit in a most obvious way. A council that started in one direction, is captured by the Spirit, and sent on a new trajectory. Some are saying the same thing about the Pontificate of Francis.
The question becomes, will we open our minds and hearts to the working of the Spirit, confident that it can be trusted? As our dear friend Tim reminds us, much of the Hebrew Scriptures can be seen as a discourse on learning to trust this God that we have come to know. This becomes the ultimate in trust–“the spirit will teach you everything!”
But the ending statement is, I think most telling–“it will remind you of all that I have told you.”
This is the key to understanding I believe.
We are all of us, attempting to discern truth. We read the bible. We read learned and not so learned “experts”. We pray. We think. We ponder.
We all wish to believe that the Spirit guides our conclusions. We all wish to believe that we understand rightly. Some of us are very sure of that. Some of us are not at all sure. How can we be? The bible, (except for some few of us) remains a maddeningly enigmatic series of documents, difficult to define, difficult to unravel, seemingly contradictory in places and inexplicable in others. The more we study the more we realize that it is a collection of very different writings pointing in many different directions. As I said, it is only the most arrogant of persons who claims that it is obvious and clear.
Let us be honest. We are but mortals attempting to define that which is ineffable. We walk upon holy ground. We breath holy air. We are gifted with this life of short duration, a mere moment in the grand design. We are like an ant trying to discern the pattern in an area rug which we walk upon. We cannot see the expanse to make out the pattern.
Yet, we have this Spirit guiding us. And if we remember the words of Jesus, recorded in some fashion within the Gospels as they have come down to us–if we remember the ideas and the themes he brought to us, THEN these become the guide to how we might approach understanding “God’s Will”.
When our understanding is in alignment with what Jesus said, then we approach truth. When it does not, when we stretch and twist the Gospel stories to stand for things that can bear no relationship to Jesus’ world, or to the body of his teachings, then we are moving from truth and toward a self-centered non-truth that may serve us but not the Gospel. If we must warp the Gospel to reach the place we want to go, we are most assuredly heading in the wrong direction.
We can learn “everything” from the Spirit when we use as our template the basic tenets of love, kindness, forgiveness, inclusiveness, justice, fairness, equality, patience, humility, and honesty. These are what the Master taught. We will act within the Spirit of God when we bring to every experience these qualities.
What Would Jesus Do?
The Spirit will tell you everything.
- Pope Francis, Summon a Council: It’s Our Tradition! (mikerivageseul.wordpress.com)
- In Exile: Homily of Fr. Ron Rolheiser