Gospel Reflection Pentecost B
May 27, 2012
“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 have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to me. But I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them. I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts.
Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. 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.
There are many themes woven into this complex passage. There is Jesus’ awareness of and response to the sorrow and confusion his friends are feeling as he talks about going away from them. There is the promise that they won’t be left alone. There are the Trinitarian references that invite us into the mystery of divine relationship. There are serious warnings about what happens when religious systems become self-protective and make a virtue out of destroying those who have received different insights, instead of faithfully risking uncertainty. Probably John was writing about what was happening to his own gathered community, reminding them that there is nothing new or strange in what they were suffering. Fidelity to Jesus does not mean that we’ll have an easy, comfortable life or that we’ll meet with approval or popularity. Nor does it mean that we will have all the answers. Instead, as this passage suggests, what we understand now is as much as we can receive right now, but there’s a whole lot more for us to learn as we continue to live in response to what we think we understand. We have the teacher – the Advocate – we need who is teaching us, and we still have a lot to learn.
That is a remarkable gift to give, a wonderful and freeing teaching. We don’t have to get it all right or have all the answers. Neither our baptisms nor confirmations nor the most powerful of conversion experiences gave us all the answers. How often do we hear people appearing to speak for God – talking as though they really know what God is up to and what we have to do in order to be faithful to God and earn God’s approval. We hear it from politicians as well as religious professionals who really should know better. We hear it from well-meaning people who come knocking at our doors. We hear it from people who survived a natural disaster, proclaiming that God was protecting them – though their neighbors were apparently not so “protected”. We hear it from those who know when and how “the end” is coming.
As John is showing, knowledge of God, God’s ways and will, is an ongoing process. There are things we can hear and understand now, as we are. We will continue to learn and grow as we pray, reflect and deal with our experiences of trying to live as faithful servants and friends of Jesus Christ. As we grow, we will often discover that we’ve been wrong or our ideas have been incomplete, limited. It can feel threatening when that happens, but it is still a glorious gift that, accepted with humor, humility and even joy, is a gift of life.