Pentecost Sunday – Year C


Gospel reflection  – John 14:15-16,23b-26
The Spirit: Hope of a New World

Fernando Armellini

We are at the Last Supper and the disciples realized that Jesus is about to leave them. Their hearts are troubled; they are sad and wonder what sense their lives will have without him. Jesus reassures them by inviting them to remain faithful to his first proposal of life (v. 15). Love will be the sign that they are in tune with him.

Then he promises not to leave them alone, without protection and without guidance. He will pray to the Father, and he “will send another Paraclete” that will remain with them forever (v. 16). It is the promise of the gift of that Spirit that Jesus possessed in fullness (Lk 4:1,14,18) and that will be poured out on the disciples.

The Spirit is called the Comforter, but this word is not a good translation of the Greek Παρακλήτος. Paraclete is a term taken from the forensic language and indicates someone who is called next to the accused, the defender, the rescuer of those in difficulty. In this sense, Jesus is the Paraclete, as noted by John in his first letter: “My little children, I write to you that you may not sin. But if anyone sins, we have an intercessor with the Father, Jesus Christ, the Just One” (1 Jn 2:1).

Jesus is the paraclete as our advocate with the Father, not because he defends us from the wrath of God—the Father is never against us, is always on our side—but because he protects us from our accuser, our adversary, sin. The enemy is sin, and Jesus knows how to reduce it to impotence.

Now he promises another Paraclete, who has not the task of replacing him, but to accomplish his very own mission. The Spirit is the Paraclete because comes to the rescue of the disciples in their struggle against the world, that is, against the forces of evil (Jn 16:7-11).

At this point a question arises: if the Paraclete is such a powerful defender, why does evil continue to prevail over good and why does sin so often dominates us? The Christians of the communities of Asia Minor at the end of the first century also wondered why the new world was not immediately established and in a prodigious way. Jesus answers these doubts and uncertainties: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make a room in his home” (v. 23).

Jesus wants to manifest himself, together with the Father, not through miracles, but by coming to dwell in the disciples. The Israelites believed that the place of God’s presence was the temple in Jerusalem. However, as early as King Solomon, a doubt that a house made of man’s hand cannot hold the Lord of the universe arose (1 K 8:27). Through the prophets’ mouth, God had promised that he would come to live among his people: “Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for I am about to come. I shall dwell among you” (Zec 2:14).

He was not referring to a material sanctuary. It is in the man Jesus that God fulfilled the promise and has made himself present (Jn 1:14). Now—ensures Jesus—God dwells and is made visible in the disciple who loves as He loved. For this is not difficult to recognize if and when the devil is present in a man and when Jesus and the Father are instead present and act in him.

In the last verse, Jesus promises the Holy Spirit, “the Paraclete who will teach and remind” all that he said (v. 26). Jesus said it all; he did not leave out anything, yet it is necessary that the Spirit continues to teach because he could not explain all the implications and practical applications of his message. In the history of the world—he knew—the disciples would always be faced with new situations and questions, which they had to answer in the light of the gospel. Jesus assures: if they will stay in tune with the promptings of the Spirit present in them, they will always find the answer in conformity with his teaching.

The Spirit will often ask for unforeseen radical changes, but will not lead to ways other than those indicated by Jesus. In the Scripture, the verb “to teach” has a deeper meaning. The Spirit does not teach in the same way a professor does in school when he explains the lesson. He teaches in a dynamic way, becomes an inner impulse, irresistibly pushes us in the right direction, stimulates the good in us, and leads us to make choices consistent with the Gospel.

“He will guide you into the whole truth”—explains Jesus at the Last Supper (Jn 16:13)—and, in his first letter, John explains: “You have received from him an anointing, and it remains in you, so you do not need someone to teach you. His anointing teaches you all things, it speaks the truth and does not lie to you; so remain in him and keep what he has taught you” (1 Jn 2:27-28).

The second task of the Spirit is to remind. There are many words of Jesus, which, despite being in the Gospels, run the risk of being forgotten or unmentioned. It happens, especially with those proposals that are not easy to assimilate because they are contrary to the “common sense” of the world. These are those that need to be constantly recalled.

Fernando Armellini
Italian missionary and biblical scholar