Sunday's Gospel: Who Is the Advocate?

The following is republished with permission from my column in Catechist magazine. For subscription information, visit catechist.com.

May 21, Sixth Sunday of Easter, Gospel Reading: John 14:15-21

In this week’s Gospel reading, Jesus’ “Farewell Discourse” (John 14–16) continues. In this short excerpt of the discourse, Jesus assures his disciples that, although he will be leaving them soon, he will remain with them. But how?

Jesus tells his followers that if they keep his commandments, the Father will send them “another Advocate.” The Greek word translated here as “advocate” is parakletos, a word that typically refers to an advocate or mediator (but is sometimes translated as “comforter”). Jesus already serves as a mediator between God and his followers, but now he is speaking of sending another mediator, one he identifies as “the Spirit of truth.”

It is clear that the Spirit is distinct from Jesus, and yet the Spirit allows Jesus to continue to be with his followers, to be revealed to them, and even to love them. Thus Jesus can say that even though the world will no longer be able to see him, his disciples will. This is the power of the presence of the Spirit of truth.

As if this were not enough to boggle the minds of the disciples, Jesus adds this mysterious nugget: “I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.” The unity of Jesus with his Father is an oft-repeated theme in John’s Gospel. But now Jesus draws his disciples into this wonderful communion. It may seem that a mediator is no longer necessary if we are “in Jesus” and he is “in the Father.” Perhaps Jesus is saying that it is precisely this revealing Spirit of truth that makes this intimacy with the Father and Son possible.

We may not understand everything Jesus is saying in his Farewell Discourse, even in this small piece of it. But one message is clear: Although we cannot see Jesus with our eyes, he remains with us. He urges us to believe it.

ASK YOURSELF: Do I feel the presence of Jesus? Or is it something I must accept on faith?

ASK YOUR STUDENTS: Do you think the disciples were ever confused by Jesus’ words? Do you think they came to understand some of his teachings after he died and rose from the dead? Why? How?

PRAY: Spirit of truth, mediate for me, comfort me, and reveal Jesus to me.

LIVE THE GOSPEL: The Holy Spirit is described by Jesus as a paraclete — a mediator, an advocate, or a comforter. How can you be a mediator or an advocate for someone this week? How can you mediate the presence of Jesus by supporting or comforting someone?

In this lovely image by Charles Plessard (goache on paper), the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus as he is baptized by John the Baptist. Illustrations of the baptism of Jesus allow an artistic expression of the intimacy between Jesus, the Father and the Spirit that we read about in this passage from John's Gospel. Image courtesy Sacred Art Pilgrim.

In this lovely image by Charles Plessard (goache on paper), the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus as he is baptized by John the Baptist. Illustrations of the baptism of Jesus allow an artistic expression of the intimacy between Jesus, the Father and the Spirit that we read about in this passage from John's Gospel. Image courtesy Sacred Art Pilgrim.