Mission Society of the Philippines

Homilies

PENTECOST SUNDAY: THE PARACLETE WHO TESTIFIES TO ALL TRUTH

Jn 15:26-27; 16:12-15


IT HAS BEEN said that the Pentecost Sunday is the birthday of the Church. And speaking of birthdays, they are important moments of our life which deserve celebrations. Birthdays are occasions through which we can be thankful for the gift of life, and for the love we have received. They provide the opportunity for families, as well as friends to get together.

So, it is with Pentecost. We celebrate today the ‘birthday’ of the church. Down through the centuries the Holy Spirit has guided the Church, in spite of the weaknesses of its members. During these years, the Church has produced generous and heroic people who have been ‘led by the Spirit’ and whose lives have given eloquent witness to the Spirit of God at work in them.

This celebration brings us also to reflect on the mystery of God the Holy Spirit. We believe in one God in three divine Persons. But, of the three divine Persons, the most difficult one for us to think about is the Holy Spirit. We can think about God the Father as the source of all things. We can also picture him as a merciful Father. God the Son or Jesus is also easy to imagine. We find an account of his life and teaching in the gospels, and we can also use our imagination to picture him and to follow him through his early life. But this cannot be the case of the Holy Spirit. Since the Holy Spirit has not assumed any bodily form, it is impossible for us to imagine him in any concrete way.

However, in the gospel passage, we have heard of the revelation of Jesus about the Holy Spirit. These revelations can help us to think of the Holy Spirit.

Firstly, Jesus describes or calls the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete (Gk: Parakletos), which is translated in various ways: Counselor, Advocate, Helper. It means, literally, “one called alongside of” to help, exhort, and encourage. The Greek word was used in legal settings to refer to an attorney making a defense in court on behalf of someone accused. Thus, when Jesus used this to describe of the Holy Spirit, it means that the Holy Spirit strengthens those who belong to Christ, standing beside them in support as they battle temptation, endure the trials of this world, and rebut the accusations of the devil. Jesus further says that the Spirit will testify to Him. Indeed, the Spirit’s assistance or support was present in the lives of the apostles. The apostles were driven by the Spirit to testify to Jesus.

Secondly, Jesus speaks of the ‘procession’ or the origin of the Holy Spirit. He says, “When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father.” Each time we pray the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, we profess of the truth that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Or we shall say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son. The Orthodox Church would not subscribe to this because for them, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone. But, the words of Jesus in the gospel text are a basis for our belief in it.

Thirdly, Jesus describes the Spirit as the Spirit of Truth and as Guide. Jesus says, “But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.” The great ecumenical councils in the Church, like the Vatican Council, are a testament to this. The Holy Spirit has guided the Church through the years, particularly in the area of teaching or doctrinal truth. Doctrines have been formulated and explained, and the Church has improved her pastoral approaches with the aid of the Holy Spirit.

But the Holy Spirit is also present in every person. He is present in our life; He is at work in our day-to-day existence. What we need are proper attitudes toward the Spirit. St John Paul II speaks of docility. He says that docility to the Spirit gives man continuous opportunities for life. Pope Francis speaks of openness. He says, “Our hearts must be open, then, so that the Holy Spirit can enter, and so that we can hear the Spirit.” Indeed, when we allow ourselves to be guided by the Spirit, we become truly free. AMEN.


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