The Spirit That Breathes Within You
”The Holy Spirit will teach you everything and remind you of all I told you.” John 14:26
We witness a wild and drastic turn of events for Paul and Barnabas in today’s 1st Reading (Acts 14:5-18) as we see the two evangelists on the run, the dual target of a coordinated attack between the Jews, the Gentiles and their leaders to capture and subsequently stone them. Their lives in danger, they flee to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe.
Paul promptly heals a man crippled from birth upon his arrival in Lystra, leading the astonished onlookers to conclude that Paul and Barnabas were in fact gods sent down from Heaven above. The irony here of course is that Paul and Barnabas set out to free the people from the disordered affection of idolatry, only to be made idols, albeit temporary ones, themselves. Also of note is how quickly these two men went from pariah to healer to god in the fickle eyes of the faithless. Despite Paul’s best efforts to convince them that they were but mere mortals, we’re told that “they scarcely restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them.”
“Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me,” Jesus tells his disciples in the opening words of today’s Gospel (John 14:21-26), causing many I’m sure to be reminded that our modern-day political leaders seem quite literally “hell bent” on removing monuments to the Ten Commandments from state house grounds, a sure sign of their thoughts pertaining to the importance of God’s Law in an ever-increasing secular world.
“Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will reveal myself to him” Jesus goes on to say in this passage, yet another nod to the divine and sacred unity borne of the Holy Trinity. Further foreshadowing his earthy departure by way of his Ascension, Jesus concludes his lesson with these words: “I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.”
As we delve deeper into the 14th Chapter of John’s Gospel, it’s clear that Jesus is intent on focusing squarely on this capstone teaching, that He is one in the Father, the Father is one in Him, and that He will reveal himself by way of the Holy Spirit. With his Ascension into Heaven and the subsequent pouring forth of the Holy Spirit now imminent, his disciples had to have a complete and thorough understanding of this Triune relationship before he departed to assume his place at the Right Hand of the Father, His Father. The Apostles would bring this message to many, some accepting it while others did not, putting Jesus’ friends to death in eleven of these instances. We know that many others would be martyred in the name Jesus. Many still are today.
Encountering the Holy Spirit, understanding it even ~ it’s form, it’s shape, it’s purpose ~ can be difficult, whether one is new to the faith or a Cradle Catholic. For those who view everything through a doggedly empirical lens it can be particularly daunting. In his Daily Gospel Reflection, Bishop Barron invites you to view the Holy Spirit as the love that connects the Father and the Son. “From all eternity,“ he says “the Holy Spirit is breathed back and forth between the Father and the Son, and hence he is nothing but love. When therefore he comes to dwell in you and me, he turns us to the path of love.” As we reflect upon this image, we come to more greatly understand the words of Jesus as He tells us that “I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me, and whoever loves me will be loved by my Father.”
“O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there Thy cheerful beams.” ~ Saint Augustine