May 21, 2017 — Sixth Sunday of Easter
ACTS 8: 5-8, 14-17; PS 66: 1-7, 16, 20; 1 PT 3: 15-18; JN 14: 15-21
Jesus said to His disciples in today’s Gospel, “…he will send you another Advocate to be with you always.” Five times in his writings, St. John uses the term we translate as “advocate.” In the original Greek, the word is Parakletos. Most scholars concur that the Parakletos is the Holy Spirit, and that the Spirit is sent by the Father.
In modern terms, we speak of an advocate as one who serves as a counselor or a comforter, especially in legal settings. However, as we hear and learn in today’s readings the Holy Spirit is more than that to us. Jesus is also our Advocate as it is He who atoned for our sins through His sacrifice.
In the First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear of Philip going to and preaching in Samaria. Philip, you may recall, is one of the originally ordained Deacons. According to Acts 8: 1 Philip fled persecution, but Samaria might seem a curious place for him to go, because of the long enmity between the Samaritans and the Jews. Philip, however, clearly took his call to evangelization quite seriously, as should each of us.
Because of Philip’s success, Sts. Peter and John traveled to Samaria as well. “Then they laid hands upon them (the converted Samaritans), and they received the Holy Spirit.” These people were already saved, but they received special gifts and graces through the Holy Spirit thanks to these Apostles. This may seem beyond the norm, but it is a filling of the Holy Spirit that each of us needs to want and seek as well.
In his First Letter (our Second Reading) St. Peter reminds us that doing what Philip did, the correct thing, in spite of seeming risks, is in fact what we need to do. St. Peter knew first hand that doing good does not always meet with a like return. Because most of us do not experience suffering because we practice our faith does not mean we may never be threatened by being faithful Catholics, but it does mean that we should not hesitate from doing good. The Holy Spirit has been placed in our hearts and minds, and we should be ever prepared to explain our faith, or defend it, and do it with the right attitude.
Peter himself relied consistently on the Holy Spirit to give him the power and the strength to continue. Do we share in that same firmness and confidence? We should. The Holy Spirit is a gift on Whom we should rely.
As is often the case, it is the Gospel Reading that brings all together in a way that is most meaningful to us. For one thing this Gospel again confirms and reinforces the Holy Trinity, as Jesus says, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always.” The Son prays to the Father Who responds to His prayer with the Holy Spirit (Advocate). As mentioned the original word for “Advocate” is the Greek word parakletos. This means literally a person summoned to one’s aid, an advisor, an intercessor. The Holy Spirit is sent to empower and assist us to live a Christian life.
The word “another” that describes the Advocate is based on the original Greek word allen, which can be best translated as “another of the same kind.” It is an indication that God, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all one, all the same. The Holy Spirit does not just represent the Father and the Son; the Holy Spirit is the Father and the Son. When we are imbued with the Holy Spirit, God and Jesus are within us. This is permanent, not temporary. Yet, we all understand that it is up to us to reveal and allow that Spirit to work and be effective.
Thus, when someone says that Jesus is within each of us, that is indeed the case. We look at St. Teresa of Calcutta as a saint and an example of how to live as a Christian and a Catholic. Nevertheless, we sometimes fail to see that she had an intellectual depth and ability to put things in terms we could grasp. She once said, “When you look at the inner workings of electrical things, you see wires. Until the current passes through them, there will be no light. That wire is you and me. The current is God, the Holy Spirit. We have the power to let the current pass through us, use us, to produce the Light of the World, Jesus, in us. Or we can refuse to be used and allow darkness to spread.” Let us with the help of the Advocate be lights in this world.