First Reading: Acts 8:5-8.14-17; Psalm: 66. R. v. 1; Second Reading: 1Pt 3:15-18; Gospel: Jn 14:15-21
JESUS LIVES ON IN US THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT
BY FR VALENTINE NNAMDI EGBUONU, MSP
I have a friend on Facebook who is a Christian but very controversial. He is so critical about the Scriptures that he questions almost everything. I like him for this, not because he is the best of friends or because I enjoy what he does; but because I do not wish to substitute or mistake his quest for knowledge for lack of faith. If those we have around us are people who invariably agree to everything we do and say; then we may need to move away a bit from them if we wished to grow in knowledge. If we have not met a sceptic who questioned what we believe to the extent that we had a rethink; then perhaps meeting such people will reveal how deep or shallow our faith is.
Among other things, this unnamed friend of mine once asked how the Bible stories are relevant to us today. In fact, for him the Bible is a compilation of stories about people of different culture and tradition alien and obsolete to what most Christians have and practice today. It is the teaching of a man called Jesus who exhorted and challenged his Jewish people to embrace a new way of life as opposed to the conventional practices of his time. So what business do we have reading about the story of a people and their culture as though these stories were written for us? How relevant are these stories to us today?
We will not be attempting to answer this question because someone somewhere wishes to know but because Jesus seems to be saying today that he lives in everyone and that his teaching is for everyone. As Jesus prepares to return back to his Father, in his valedictory speech to his troubled disciples he said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father and he will give you another Counsellor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.”
We can see that Jesus promised his disciples the Paraclete who shall be with them forever since he was departing physically from the world. ‘Paraclete’ is from the Greek word Parakletos meaning “a witness in ones behalf.” It also refers to a person who gives comfort, counsel, or strength in moments of need. Other words for Paraclete are Advocate, Counsellor or Intercessor.
Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as “another Paraclete” which implied that he himself was also a Paraclete. However, as a Paraclete limited to space and time since Jesus possessed a body through his incarnation, Jesus would only be able to help a limited number of people because he can only be in one place at a time. But the other Paraclete (the Holy Spirit) that Jesus promised to give to his disciples after ascending to his Father, will be with his disciples everywhere and forever. And since this Paraclete is not limited to space and time but everywhere and does not discriminate (Acts 11:15-17); then it means that the gospel of Jesus Christ which the Holy Spirit was coming to counsel and teach us about will speak to us wherever we are in our peculiar situations, culture and time.
The Holy Spirit plays an essential role in the Christian faith; if not, how can we explain the universal spread of this tiny ministry began by Jesus in a small village in Galilee? The Jesus we never saw or heard from directly. Although many may argue that the narratives in the Scriptures do not apply to them directly and that it was written for a particular people within a particular culture and time; but we cannot deny how the same Scripture keeps inspiring and changing many lives positively outside the Jewish people and their culture till date. This unending and limitless inspiration and transformative power of the Scriptures is animated and made possible by the Holy Spirit the Paraclete.
So, truly as Jesus promised, he has not left us desolate; he is with us through the Holy Spirit. He lives not only in his disciples but in all who believe in him. So when we talk about Jesus, we are not talking about the memory of the Jesus who died long time ago in Jerusalem but the ever presence of the Jesus who now lives eternally in all who believe in him. It is the Holy Spirit who makes this presence possible. However, the Holy Spirit is not representing Jesus neither is Jesus representing the Holy Spirit. But Jesus is eternally alive in all who believe in him through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is truly our helper today and always. There are instances where choosing to love rather than to hate can be very difficult especially when certain situations or circumstances makes love difficult to practice yet we choose to love instead. In situations like this, our choice of love over hate is not by our own power but by the help of the Holy Spirit who brings alive the love of God in our hearts. When we practice Christian virtues like love, forgiveness, charity and generosity; we are not really the ones animating these virtues which left on our own we cannot do. It is the Paraclete who makes them possible thereby making the presence of Jesus alive in our world.
Although we may not have directly witnessed or heard from the incarnate Jesus who had come and gone; however, the same Jesus is very much present in our world today because his love still lives on in us through the help of the Holy Spirit the Paraclete. Truly, Jesus had not left us desolate and orphaned. So, whenever we find it difficult to live after the examples of Jesus; we only need to turn to the Holy Spirit and ask for his help that he may teach us how to live according to the ways of Christ who lives in us always.
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
Lord Jesus, may the gift of your Holy Spirit help us to keep your presence alive in our world today. Amen