May 6, 2013
Dear brothers and sisters,
Today’s gospel reading is from John 15:26 – 16:4.
“When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning. I have told you this so that you may not fall away. They will expel you from the synagogues; in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God. They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me. I have told you this so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you.”
The Greek word “Paraclete” that John used appears in his gospel four times as a name for the Holy Spirit and once in his first letter for Jesus. Advocate, Comforter, Counselor, Helper, Friend. All used in various translations of this verse. It seems that there is no clear consensus for what Jesus was/is trying to communicate to us with this word Paraclete. It appears no where else in the Greek Bible or the Septuagint to help with our understanding. The Vulgate, the commonly used Latin translation, used “Paracletus” for the gospel rendering and “Advocatus” in John’s letter to make a distinction even though it’s the same Greek word in the earliest manuscripts.
It’s interesting that in John 14 Jesus said that God will give us another Advocate — the same Advocate described in the verse above. The New American Bible notes explain that Jesus is the first Advocate who “is an advocate in the sense of intercessor in heaven. The Greek term derives from legal terminology for an advocate or defense attorney, and can mean spokesman, mediator, intercessor, comforter, consoler, although no one of these terms encompasses the meaning in John.” So, I take it that Jesus will plead my case for me before God on the Day of Judgment. I couldn’t ask for a better defense attorney, but he better be at his best that day!
The notes continue, “The Paraclete in John is a teacher, a witness to Jesus, and a prosecutor of the world, who represents the continued presence on earth of the Jesus who has returned to the Father.” A prosecutor on earth and a defender in heaven. That’s an interesting paradox! The Catholic Dictionary helps a little, “The word means ‘one called in,’ an advocate or pleader…. the undoubted sense in 1 John. The Holy Ghost pleads the Christian cause against the world and Christ’s with the Christian.”
So, what am I to make of these words of Jesus? The Oxford English Dictionary’s first definition of prosecute is, “To follow up, pursue; to persevere or persist in, follow out, go on with (some action, undertaking, or purpose) with a view to completing or attaining it.” I think that he’s telling me that God will give me the spirit, the courage, the fortitude, the words even to testify or witness to his Son Jesus in the world. Barclay writes of this, “Christian witness comes from long fellowship and intimacy with Christ. The disciples are his witnesses because they have been with him from the beginning. A witness is a man who says of something: ‘This is true, and I know it.’ There can be no witness without personal experience. We can witness for Christ only when we have been with him….A witness is not only someone who knows that something is true; he is someone who is prepared to say that he knows it is true.”
I am to be Jesus’ prosecutor in the world, to carry on his mission with the intent of completing it regardless of rejection or worse. If I do so, he will defend me before his Father on the day I am judged. That seems like a fair exchange to me.