John 14: 21-26
They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.
“I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 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.
In these brief, beautiful verses from Jesus’ farewell discourse, he assures his disciples that after he departs and ascends to the Father, his presence on earth will not be lost. The incarnation of the Word will bloom even more abundantly by way of the Paraclete (Greek)—the love of neighbor. This word is variously translated as “Advocate,” “Comforter,” “Counselor,” and “Helper.” Jesus also calls this third person of the Trinity the Spirit of truth (John 14: 17).
I hope you feel as comforted by this promise as I do. These words were spoken not only to and for the actual witnesses and friends of Jesus in the first century, but to and for us as well. Like Paul, who never knew Jesus as a bodily human, we are their beneficiaries. We have to trust and abide in this Spirit-Advocate so that it will abide in us.
We are called, now perhaps more than at any time in our generation (I am 56), to embody this love of neighbor, and to advocate for others. To be comforters, counselors, helpers, and truth-tellers to our broken nation. People are hurting. The pandemic. The dearth of medical resources. The staggering unemployment. The isolation. The way this plague has revealed and amplified our country’s longstanding afflictions: addiction, child and spousal abuse, racism.
Outbreaks create fear, and fear is the medium in which racism and xenophobia thrive. Black men are now being racially profiled (even more than usual) for following the epidemiological and legal rules requiring masks in public spaces. And of the 40 individuals recently arrested in Brooklyn for social distancing violations, 35 were black.* I could go on. And on.
We are called to speak and embody the Spirit of truth for all injustices. No more sitting on the sidelines. We must unlearn our helplessness. At the very least, use your voice, your keyboard and your prayers to advocate for those whose skin color is perceived either as a threat, or as something that can and should be ignored. We are the ones they have been waiting for. Armed with the Holy Spirit, we can do more than we ever imagined or hoped for.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.
And kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
And you will renew the face of the earth.
The English translation of the Prayer to the Holy Spirit from A Book of Prayers © 1982, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. (ICEL).