The promise of a Consoler. The Holy Spirit,
teacher and living memory of the Word of Jesus
John 14, 15-16.23-26
1. Opening prayer
Most merciful Father, on this most holy day I cry to you from my room behind closed doors. I raise my prayer to you in fear and immobility in the face of death. Grant that Jesus may come to me and dwell at the centre of my heart that he may drive away all fear and all darkness. Grant me your peace, which is true peace, peace of heart. Grant that the Holy Spirit may come to me, the Spirit who is the fire of love, that warms and enlightens, that melts and purifies; who is living water, flowing even to eternal life, that quenches and cleans, that baptises and renews; who is the strong and at the same time soft wind, the breath of your voice and breath; who is dove announcing pardon, a new and lasting beginning for the whole world.
Send your Spirit upon me when I read and listen to your Word so that I may penetrate the mysteries it holds; grant that I may be overwhelmed and submerged, baptised and made into a new person, so that I may give my life to you and to my brothers and sisters. Amen, Alleluia
a) Placing the passage in its context:
These few verses, which are not even well connected, are a few drops of water taken from an ocean. In fact, they are part of that long and grandiose discourse in John’s Gospel, which begins with chapter 13:31 and goes up to and including the whole of chapter 17. The whole of this very deep discourse deals with only one theme, that is, the “going of Jesus”, which we find in 13:33: “Yet a little while I am with you… Where I go you cannot come” and in 16:28: “I came from the Father and have come into the world. Again I leave the world and go to the Father” and again in 17:13: “Now I am coming to you, [Father]”. Jesus’ going to the Father signifies also our going, our essential and faith journey in this world; it is here that we learn to follow Jesus, to listen to him, to live like him. It is here that we receive the complete revelation of Jesus in the mystery of the Trinity as well as the revelation concerning a Christian life, its power, its tasks, its joys and sorrows, its hopes and struggles. In reflecting on these words we find the truth of the Lord Jesus and of ourselves before Him and in Him.
These verses speak especially of three very strong consoling reasons for us: the promise of the coming of the Consoler; the coming of the Father and the Son within those who believe; the presence of a master, the Holy Spirit, through whom the teachings of Jesus will never cease.
b) To help us with the reading of the passage:
vv. 15-16: Jesus reveals that the observance of the commandments is not a matter of obligation, but a sweet fruit that is born of the love of the disciple for Him. This loving obedience is due to the all-powerful prayer of Jesus for us. The Lord promises another Consoler, sent by the Father, who will always remain with us in order to drive away our solitude once and for all.
vv. 23-24: Jesus repeats that love and observance of the commandments are two vital truths essentially related to each other, that have the power to introduce the disciple into the mystical life, that is, into the experience of immediate and personal communion with Jesus and with the Father.
v. 25: Jesus says something very important: there is a substantial difference between what he said while he was with the disciples and what he will say later, when, thanks to the Spirit, He will be in them, within them. At first, understanding is limited because the relationship with him is an external one: the Word comes from outside and reaches ears, but not pronounced within. Later, understanding will be full.
v. 26: Jesus announces the Holy Spirit as master who will teach no longer from outside but from within us. He will give new life to the Words of Jesus, those forgotten will be remembered and will be understood by the disciples within their capabilities.
c) The text:
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor, to be with you for ever.
23 Jesus answered him, “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.
25 “These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you. 26 But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
3. A time of prayerful silence
I go to the Master’s school, the Holy Spirit. I sit at his feet and I abandon myself in his presence. I open my heart, without any fear, so that he may instruct, console, reprove and make me grow.
4. A few questions
a) “If you love me”. Is my relationship with Jesus a relationship of love? Do I make room for him in my heart? Do I look within myself honestly and ask: “Where is love in my life, is there any?” If I realise that there is no love within me, or just a little, do I try to ask myself: “What is preventing me, what is it that keeps me closed, imprisoned, rendering me sad and lonely?”
b) “You will observe my commandments”. I notice the verb “to observe” with the many meanings it implies: to look after well, to protect, to pay attention, to keep alive, to reserve and preserve, not to throw away, to keep carefully, with love. Am I aware and enlightened by these attitudes, by my relationship as disciple, as Christian, with the Word and the commandments that Jesus gave us for our happiness?
c) “He will give you another Consoler”. How often have I not searched for someone to console me, to look after me, to show me affection and care for me! But, am I truly convinced that true consolation comes from the Lord? Or do I still trust much more in the consolations I find, the ones that I beg for here and there, that I gather like crumbs without ever being able to be satisfied?
d) “Make our home with him”. The Lord stands at the door and knocks and waits. He does not force or oblige. He says: “If you wish…”. He suggests that I might become his home, the place of his repose, of his intimacy. Jesus is ready and happy to come to me, to unite himself to me in a very special kind of friendship. But, am I ready? Am I expecting his visit, his coming, his entering into my most intimate, most personal self? Is there room for him in the inn?
e) “He will…bring to your remembrance all that I have said”. The word “remembrance” recalls another very important, even essential matter. Am I challenged and scrutinised by Scripture? What is it that I recall? What do I try to remember, to bring to life in my interior world? The Word of the Lord is a most precious treasure; it is the seed of life that is sown in my heart; but do I look after this seed? Do I defend it from a thousand enemies and dangers that assail it: the birds, the rocks, the thorns, the evil one? Do I, every morning, carry with me a Word of the Lord to remember during the day and to make my inner light, my strength, my food?
5. A key to the reading
I now approach each one of the characters in the reading and I listen prayerfully, meditatively, reflectively, in contemplation…
The face of the Father:
Jesus says: “I will ask the Father” (v. 26) and thus draws aside a little the mysterious veil surrounding prayer: prayer is the life that leads to the Father. To go to the Father, we are given the way of prayer. As Jesus lives his relationship with the Father by means of prayer, so also must we. I need to read the Gospels and become a careful searcher of signs concerning this secret of the love of Jesus and his Father, so that, by entering into that relationship, I too may grow in the knowledge of God, my Father
“He will give you another Consoler”. The Father is the one who gives us the Consoler. This gift is preceded by the Father’s act of love, who knows that we need consolation: He saw my misery in Egypt and heard my cry. He indeed knows my sufferings and sees the oppressions that torment me (cfr. Es 3: 7-9); nothing goes unnoticed by his infinite love for me. That is why He gives us the Consoler. The Father is the Giver. Everything comes to us from Him and no one else.
“My Father will love him” (v. 24). The Father is the Lover who loves with an eternal love, absolute, inviolable, uncancellable. Thus do Isaiah, Jeremiah and all the Prophets say (cfr. Jer 31:3; Is 43:4; 54: 8; Hos 2:21; 11:1).
“We will come to him”. The Father is united with the Son, Jesus, and is one with Him, and with Him comes to each one of us. He moves, goes out, bends and walks towards us. Urged by a mad and inexplicable love, He comes to us.
“And we will make our home with him”. The Father builds his house within us; he makes of us, of me, of my existence, of my whole being, his home. He comes and will not leave but faithfully stays.
The face of the Son:
“If you love me…” (v. 15); “If anyone loves me…” (v. 23). Jesus enters into a unique and personal relationship with me, face to face, heart to heart, soul to soul; he wants to have an intense relationship, unique, unrepeatable, and he unites me to Him by love if I so wish. He always puts an “if” and says when he asks me by name: “If you wish…”. The only way He constantly seeks to come to me is through love. In fact, it is noticeable that the use of the pronouns “you” and “anyone” are connected to “me” by the verb “to love” and no other verb.
“I will ask the Father” (v. 16). Jesus is the one who prays, who lives by prayer and for prayer. The whole of his life is summed up by prayer and in prayer. He is the supreme and eternal priest who intercedes for us and offers prayers and supplications together with tears (cfr. Heb 5: 7), for our salvation; “he is able at all times to save those who come to God through him, since he lives always to make intercession for them” (Heb 7:25).
“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word” (v. 23); “He who does not love me, does not keep my words” (v. 24). Jesus offers me his Word, he gives it to me in trust that I may look after it and guard it, that I may place it in my heart and there keep it warm, watch over it, contemplate it, listen to it and thus make it bear fruit. His word is a seed; it is the most precious pearl of all, for which it is worthwhile selling every other wealth; it is the treasure hidden in the field worth digging for without counting the cost; it is the fire that makes the heart burn within my breast; it is the lamp that illumines our steps even in the darkest night. Love for the Word of Jesus can be identified by my love for Jesus himself, for his whole being, because, after all, He is the Word. That is why, in this passage, Jesus is crying out to my heart that he is the one I must keep.
The face of the Holy Spirit:
“The Father will give you another Consoler” (v. 16). The Father gives us the Holy Spirit; this is “the good gift and every perfect gift from above” (Jm 1:17). He is “the other Consoler” other than Jesus, who goes and comes back so as not to leave us alone, abandoned. While I am in this world, I do not lack consolation, but am comforted by the presence of the Holy Spirit, who is not just consolation, but is much more: he is a living person and living beside me always. This presence, this company is capable of giving me joy, true joy. In fact Paul says: “The fruit of the Spirit is charity, joy, peace…” (Gal 5:22; cfr. also Rm 14:17).
“to be with you forever”. The Spirit is in our midst, he is with me, just as Jesus was with his disciples. His coming is a physical, personal presence; I do not see him, but I know that he is there and that he will never leave me. The spirit is always here and lives with me and in me, with no limitations of time or space; thus he is the Consoler.
“He will teach you all things” (v. 26). The Holy Spirit is the Teacher, he who opens the way for conscience, experience; no one except him can lead me, inform me, give me new form. His is not a school where one acquires human knowledge that creates pride and does not liberate; his teachings, his whisperings, his precise directions come from God and lead back to God. The Spirit teaches true wisdom and true knowledge (Ps 118:66), he teaches the Father’s will (Ps 118:26.64), his ways (Ps 24:4), his commandments (Ps 118:124.135), which are life. He is a Teacher capable of leading me to the whole truth (Jn 16:13), who gives me deep freedom, even to the time of the separation of the soul and the spirit, for He alone, who is God, can bring me to life and resurrection. As God, he is humble, he lowers himself, descends from his throne and enters into me (cfr. Acts 1:8; 10:44), he gives himself to me entirely and absolutely; he is not jealous of his gift, of his light, but gives without limits.
6. A moment of prayer: Psalm 30
A hymn of praise to God,
who has sent us the new life of the Spirit from on high
Ref. You have given me the fullness of life, Lord, alleluia!
I will extol thee, O Lord,
for thou hast drawn me up,
and hast not let my foes rejoice over me.
O Lord my God, I cried to thee for help,
and thou hast healed me.
O Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from Sheol,
restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit. Rit.
Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment,
and his favour is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning. Rit.
As for me, I said in my prosperity,
“I shall never be moved.”
By thy favour, O Lord,
thou hadst established me as a strong mountain;
thou didst hide thy face, I was dismayed.
To thee, O Lord,
I cried; and to the Lord I made supplication. Rit.
Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me!
O Lord, be thou my helper!”
Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing;
thou hast loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness,
that my soul may praise thee and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to thee for ever. Rit.
7. Closing prayer
Holy Spirit, allow me to speak to you again. It is difficult for me to go away from my meeting with the Word because you are present there. Therefore, live and act in me. I present to you, to your intimacy, your Love, my face of disciple; I mirror myself in you, O Holy Spirit. I offer you, finger of God’s right hand, my features, my eyes, my lips, my ears… work in me your healing, your liberation and salvation that I may be reborn, today, a new person from the womb of your fire, the breath of your wind. Holy Spirit, I was not born to be alone. I beg you, therefore, send me brothers and sisters that I may proclaim to them the life that comes from you. Amen. Alleluia!