Enjoy this reflection on John 14:15–16, part of the Gospel reading from this Sunday’s Mass, taken from The Navarre Bible: Saint John’s Gospel.
Jesus said to his disciples: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always.”
Genuine love must express itself in deeds. “This indeed is love: obeying and believing in the loved one” (St John Chrysostom, Hom. on St John, 74). Therefore, Jesus wants us to understand that love of God, if it is to be authentic, must be reflected in a life of generous and faithful self-giving, obedient to the will of God: he who accepts God’s commandments and obeys them, he it is who loves him (cf. Jn 14:21). St John himself exhorts us in another passage not to “love in word or speech but in deed and in truth” (1 Jn 3:18), and he teaches us that “this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments” (1 Jn 5:3).
On a number of occasions the Lord promises the apostles that he will send them the Holy Spirit (cf. 14:26; 15:26; 16:7–14; Mt 10:20). Here he tells them that one result of his mediation with the Father will be the coming of the Paraclete. The Holy Spirit in fact does come down on the disciples after our Lord’s ascension (cf. Acts 2:1–13), sent by the Father and by the Son. In promising here that through him the Father will send them the Holy Spirit, Jesus is revealing the mystery of the Blessed Trinity.
“Counsellor”: the Greek word sometimes anglicized as “paraclete” means, etymologically, “called to be beside one” to accompany, console, protect, defend. Hence the word is translated as Counsellor, Advocate, etc. Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit as “another Counsellor”, because he will be given them in Christ’s place as Advocate or Defender to help them, since Jesus is going to ascend to heaven. In 1 John 2:1 Jesus Christ is described as a Paraclete: “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous”. Jesus Christ, then, also is our Advocate and Mediator in heaven where he is with the Father (cf. Heb 7:25).
It is now the role of the Holy Spirit to guide, protect and vivify the Church, “for there are, as we know, two factors which Christ has promised and arranged in different ways to continue his mission […]: the apostolate and the Spirit. The apostolate is the external and objective factor, it forms the material body, so to speak, of the Church and is the source of her visible and social structures. The Holy Spirit acts internally within each person, as well as on the whole community, animating, vivifying, sanctifying” (Paul VI, Opening Address at the third session of Vatican II, 14 September 1964).*
The Holy Spirit is Counsellor as we make our way in this world amid difficulties and the temptation to feel depressed. “In spite of our great limitations, we can look up to heaven with confidence and joy: God loves us and frees us from our sins. The presence and the action of the Holy Spirit in the Church are a foretaste of eternal happiness, of the joy and peace for which we are destined by God” (St Josemaría Escrivá, Christ Is Passing By, 128).
*Emphasis is that of the editor.