When the Advocate Comes

Jesus speaks to his disciples in John’s gospel 14:15-31 about the Advocate, whom the Father will send in His name. He promises them that this Spirit will teach them all things and will remind them of everything He taught them, as we read in today’s gospel. This promised Spirit will continue His ministry of redemption on earth through His disciples. Actually, without the Holy Spirit, there would be no salvation.

We recall that this same Spirit played a vital role during creation: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Gen. 1:1-2). He worked in tandem with the Eternal Word for the coming into being of all things. Then came the fall, which distorted God’s creation and defaced particularly His image in the human person.

This condition necessitated a recreation, which we understand as redemption. For this recreation, God spoke his Eternal Word once again, which took flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary and became the man called Jesus, the Christthe anointed one. When the time for His public ministry came, he announced to the Jews: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor” (Is. 1:1). The same Eternal Word and Spirit of God cooperated once again for the redemption of man and the world.

Now, if the ministry of redemption must continue on earth through the disciples of Jesus, the Holy Spirit must continue to be part of this mission. It is for this reason that Jesus told the disciples in today’s gospel, “When the advocate comes, you too will be my witnesses.”

The Sacraments and the Holy Spirit

Christians are incorporated into the body of Christ through the sacrament of baptism. Through this sacrament they receive the Holy Spirit. However, they would not yet be ready to be the Lord’s witnesses. They would first need to be formed in the faith like the first set of witnesses, who were with him from the outset. It is through this formation that believers are equipped to be His witnesses. Only thereafter would they be anointed with the power of the Holy Spirit through the sacrament of confirmation and commissioned officially to spread the Good News. Only through the power of this Spirit would they be able to accomplish this task successfully.

Unfortunately, this expected result of the action of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those who receive Him is not always realized. This is essentially because the Holy Spirit cannot work alone in the mission of witnessing. He must cooperate with the Word through its bearers (Christians). If a Christian is not disposed for the actions of the Holy Spirit, witnessing will be impaired. The mere reception of the sacrament of confirmation does not guarantee the active operation of the Holy Spirit. The Church teaches that one can receive just the sacrament (the sign), if one is not properly disposed for the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can become active in us only when He receives the disposition He requires to function.

Novena to the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit equally becomes inactive, when a Christian becomes lukewarm or breaks relationship with the Lord. For this reason, the Church holds novena prayers to the Holy Spirit before every Pentecost Sunday, through which she offers every confirmed Catholic the opportunity to re-dispose himself or herself for the active operation of the Holy Spirit. This is equally the reason the Catholic Charismatic Renewal organizes what it calls “Baptism in the Holy Spirit.”

[Readings: Act 15:11–15; John 15:26-16:4a]

Fr. Venatius Oforka

Fr. Venatius Chukwudum Oforka is a moral theologian. He was born in Nigeria and ordained a priest for the Catholic Diocese of Orlu. He is presently working in St. Martins parish, Oberstadion in Rottenburg-Stuttgart Diocese, Germany. Among his publications are The Bleeding Continent: How Africa became Impoverished and why it Remains Poor and The Art of Spiritual Warfare: The Secrete Weapons Satan can’t Withstand.

Leave a Comment