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Gospel commentary: The gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost

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Jn 14:15-21

It may not be possible to overemphasize the significance of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church and the individual Christian. As we approach the end of the Easter season, the church turns her attention to the Holy Spirit in preparation for Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the church and her members.

First of all, the Holy Spirit makes faith possible. The Holy Spirit is the mysterious but very real point of contact between the believer and God. We can’t comprehend who Jesus really is, nor believe in Him as Lord and Savior without the direct assistance of the third Person of the Holy Trinity: “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3).

Secondly, the Holy Spirit is a gift from the Father and the Son that immensely enhances the intimacy of the believer with God. In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus promises to ask the Father to send the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, to be with us always. As a result, the Holy Spirit is one of the most significant ways that Jesus fulfills His promise to remain with us until the end of time. “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you” (Jn 14: 18). The Holy Spirit is God’s love being poured into our hearts. This is an amazing reality: God chooses to dwell in us, making us temples of the Holy Spirit.

Third, the Advocate is also the Spirit of Truth. “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him.” The Holy Spirit enlightens the mind of the believer and helps him or her to accept and embrace the truths of our faith.

Many truths that Jesus revealed about God and His plan for us are rather challenging to embrace. During Jesus’ public ministry, many of His followers found His teaching on the Eucharist to be hard to accept and “returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him” (Jn 6:65). Many people in the crowds that followed Jesus found it easy to follow Him while He was preaching against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and multiplying the loaves and fishes; however, when Jesus quietly endured His false trial and humbly embraced the cross, they turned on Him or just disappeared. The Eucharist and the cross are truths of our faith that require the help of the Advocate to grasp and embrace.

Fourth, these beautiful and mysterious truths of our faith inform our way of life. We live differently because of our encounter with Christ and because of what we believe about Him. “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.” Loving Jesus and believing in all that He revealed about God and man go hand in hand. Love and truth cannot be separated for the Christian. “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments.’ ”

Finally, the Holy Spirit empowers us to bear witness to the Risen Jesus in our present day and to imitate Our Lord in His efforts to lead others to God. In our second reading for today, St. Philip demonstrates the power of the Holy Spirit working in the life of a believer: “Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed Christ to them.” By his example, his preaching and his remarkable deeds done in Jesus’ name, Philip converted many Samaritans to the Lord, and “there was great joy in that city.” This is the same city that was filled with those who believed very differently than the Jews and lived in constant tension with them because of historical, social and religious differences. In fact, Acts of the Apostles suggests that the whole city came to believe in Jesus: “Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent them Peter and John … ”  Philip’s success at converting the city of Samaria is a testimony to the efficacy of the Holy Spirit.

As we draw near to Pentecost, we pray for a greater awareness of the authority of the Holy Spirit, given to us through baptism and confirmation and renewed in so many ways, especially in  the sacraments of penance and Eucharist. We ask God to stir up in our hearts the fire of the Holy Spirit that our faith may grow strong, our intimacy with God be renewed, our embrace of Christian Truth be firm, our lives truly imitate Christ and our example lead our neighbor to Jesus.

Fr. Peterson is assistant chaplain at Marymount University in Arlington.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017