John 20:19-23
The Promised Advocate
 by Rev. Jack Peterson, YA
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

Home Page
To Sunday Gospel Reflections Index

John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you."  When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you."  And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained."

Pentecost is the grand finale of the paschal mystery. The pouring forth of the Holy Spirit onto the church and into the hearts of Christians is absolutely critical to the saving mission of Christ. The celebration of Pentecost boldly proclaims our belief in the power of the Holy Spirit to generate faith in Jesus, unify a divided world, set hearts on fire with a love for God and send out disciples to scatter the darkness with the light of Christ.

St. Paul states with all clarity, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” Everyone who has ever had authentic faith in Jesus Christ has arrived at that place solely by the grace of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the promised Advocate of whom Jesus spoke often in his last days journeying the dusty roads of Galilee and Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit is so essential to Jesus’ mission that, at one point, Our Lord goes so far as to say to his disciples: “Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (Jn 16:7).

Another critical role of the Holy Spirit is to be the cause of a new and extraordinary unity in our world. Sin is the great destroyer of unity because it divides us from God, from one another and even from within ourselves. In the Book of Genesis, one of the immediate effects of original sin is the division in our world, dramatically symbolized by the Tower of Babel. There, people began to speak different languages and were unable to communicate effectively with one another. At Pentecost, the disciples of Jesus, all from Galilee, speak about the mighty works of God to large crowds in Jerusalem and people from all over the world miraculously hear them in their native language.

Furthermore, the Advocate also distributes spiritual gifts to the disciples of Christ that build up the church, the body of Christ. “There are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” These gifts are not distributed for people to use to their own advantage, but rather to use for the spread of the Gospel and for the unity of the body of Christ.

The Advocate sets hearts on fire. On the 50th day following the resurrection, the Spirit descended upon the disciples who were gathered in one place together as “tongues of fire.” Jesus said to his disciples, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing” (Lk 12:49). The Spirit is not a spirit of cowardice but a Spirit of fire, a spirit of passion and courage. The Samaritan woman at the well left her water jar to run into town and tell everyone she knew about Jesus who had revealed her greatest sins and given her new life. The disciples on the road to Emmaus make the seven-mile return trip to Jerusalem at night in order to share with others that Jesus had appeared to them in the breaking of the bread. St. Peter, soon after Pentecost, addressed the religious leaders of Jerusalem and spoke about the risen Christ with extraordinary boldness and power. Jesus, by sending the Holy Spirit into our hearts, wants to set them on fire with a burning love for Christ and his mission.

Finally, on the night of the resurrection, Christ breathed the Spirit upon his apostles and sent them into the world as his witnesses. Jesus chose, in his infinite wisdom, to depend upon us to be his hands and feet in the world — to imitate him and carry on his mission. Christ sends us and the Spirit drives us out of our comfort zones and into every corner of the world to spread the truth and love of God. “ ‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ ” We have been sent by Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the mighty works of God.

Do you believe in the power of the Holy Spirit?

“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful. Kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth.”