ADVOCATING CHANGE

There’s a medieval song that was sung in Latin at Pentecost while the deacon carried the gospel-book in the procession at Mass, prior to proclaiming the gospel itself. It’s called the Pentecost Sequence and it contains line after line that speaks about the gift of the Holy Spirit. It describes the Spirit as Lord of Light, Father of the Poor, Best Consoler, Sweet Comfort, Healer, Giver of Strength, Renewer, etc.

In today’s gospel Jesus says he will ask the Father
to send the “Advocate”. We tend to think of an advocate as someone who campaigns on a particular topic: an advocate for equal rights or an advocate for better housing conditions. In fact, the word advocate really means someone whom you call to stand by your side in solidarity. It’s the equivalent of the other strange-sounding word, Paraclete.

Pentecost rounds off Jesus’ saving work on earth as the Spirit completes the action of Jesus in taking on our humanity and humanising it to the point where it can glimpse the divine. What we see happening at that first Pentecost is that Jesus has not left us alone like orphans; he has sent the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, to be by our side. And the effects are immediate. From being a frightened bunch of weak men, huddled for safety behind a locked door, the apostles are transformed by the Spirit’s presence, are emboldened to go out and confront their fears, proclaiming their faith in
Christ to people from every race and nation.

Someone once said that we should pray as if everything depended on God but act as if everything depended on us. Certainly this is true of the Spirit. We are only too aware of our weakness and our inability to “go it alone” when it comes to living out our faith and telling others about it. That’s why
we pray constantly for the outpouring of the Spirit in our lives, that we may be transformed, strengthened, inspired and supported in our Christian lives.

One thing that we cannot do it to restrict the Spirit. If we ask for the Advocate then we agree to an adventure in faith that has no boundaries. After all, we call on the Spirit just to make us feel good; we ask for the Spirit to come and transform creation:
Lord, send out your Spirit and renew the face of the earth!

GLORY, GLORY, ALLELUIA!

The problem with glory, like many other religious words, is that it trips off the tongue without our giving it a second thought. If we were asked to define what glory is, then most of us would be hard fixed. And so we say “Glory to you, Lord” or sing “Glory to God in the highest” without always being aware of what we mean. After all, it’s just one of those “God words” like praise, adoration, and alleluia.

In ordinary speech glory is more or less the same as merit. We say that all the glory must go to the scorer of the winning goal, or the whole cast must take the glory for the Oscar award.

This type of glory, some sort of kudos to boast about, is not the type of glory that Jesus is referring to when he asks his Father to glorify him and us. God’s glory is very different.

Jesus is not requiring God to make him some sort of hero. He is asking that the true nature of God’s power be made visible so that people will see how great God is and will realise that all Jesus has said and done is now vindicated. To see God’s glory is to glimpse, even if for only a second, something of the majesty of God, something of God’s faithfulness, dignity, beauty and truth. And it is the Spirit of God that makes us aware of God’s glory.

So when Jesus talks about God glorifying him and us, he is asking that he be vindicated, that people might finally  realise that everything he did and said was performed in the name of God.

In entrusting us to God’s care Jesus asks for the Spirit to come upon us so that we too might share in that glory, so that we might know that the Father is the only true God and that Jesus is the one whom he sent. This knowledge of God’s glory is another way of talking about eternal life. Eternal life has already begun for us even this side of the grave, because we have experienced the power of God and we await the fulfillment of his promises.