By FR. ROBERT ALTIER
Sixth Sunday Of Easter (YR A)
Readings: Acts 8:5-8, 14-17
1 Peter 3:15-18
In the Gospel today our Lord promises that He will send another Advocate to be with us always, the Spirit of Truth whom the world cannot accept because it cannot see Him and does not know Him. The word that is translated as advocate is paraclete, which has a variety of meanings but essentially means someone who speaks on behalf of another. Hence, the concept of an advocate. It is like an attorney if you are in a courtroom; the attorney is your advocate or paraclete.
It is wonderful to know that we have Someone who will speak for us. St. Paul told us that since we do not know how to pray as we ought, the Spirit prays in us. Jesus told us that we do not have to worry about our defense if we are called upon to give witness to Him, because the Spirit will give us the words and wisdom that our adversaries cannot contradict.
This is a great consolation, especially when we are faced with the counsel of St. Peter as we hear in the second reading. We are always to be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks for our reason for hope. Beyond being ready to give this explanation, St. Peter tells us that we are to do so with gentleness and reverence. Usually we can only do that when we are very confident in the truth of what we are saying.
So, does this mean that we all have to get advanced degrees in theology? No. But it does mean that we have to have such confidence in Jesus and in His promises that we will be able to be gentle and reverent. After all, the reason for our hope is Jesus and the promises He has made to us. This does not need a theological debate; all it needs is a will to accept His teaching and to love Him.
Our Lord tells us in the Gospel that whoever loves Him will be loved by His Father and that Jesus will also love him and reveal Himself to that person. In other words, this whole process begins by believing in the Lord. Once we believe in Him, we can begin to love Him. As we grow in love for Him we are able to have our minds and hearts opened to know and love Him even more. In this way there is a gradual revelation of our Lord to the soul who loves Him.
We know that in the Holy Trinity everything is one with the exception of the relationships between the Persons. This means that Jesus and the Father are one as are the Son and the Holy Spirit and the Father and the Holy Spirit. So, if Jesus is going to reveal Himself to the soul, He is simultaneously revealing the Father and the Holy Spirit.
A little further on in this same chapter of St. John’s Gospel, our Lord says that if anyone loves Him, He will come to dwell in that person. So we do not have to look outside of ourselves to find this Advocate, because He dwells within. We do not have to look for external signs, because God is within us. The Samaritans, in the first reading, came to believe because they saw the signs Philip worked. Because we know the Lord, we do not need signs and wonders; we just need Him.
What a joy to know that He is with us always, that He will never abandon us and that He will continue to reveal Himself to us as we grow more deeply in love with Him. All of these things are according to His promises. Because He is infinite, we do not have to worry about exhausting the source, nor will we ever get bored. But all of this is predicated on loving Him.
In order to love, Him we first have to believe, as we have already seen. But believing in Him and loving Him are two entirely different realities. We need to open our hearts to receive Him. Our minds can grasp His truth, but we cannot love Him with our minds. We need to employ the heart if we want to know Him. We can know about Him with our minds, but we can know Him only with our hearts.
If you realize that you are not loving Him as you ought, pray to the Holy Spirit and ask for that grace. If you do this daily, He will not only give you the grace, but He will begin to form you into a person who truly loves the Lord. He will advocate on your behalf so that you will always be ready to give an explanation for your hope: Jesus in whom you believe; Jesus, whom you love.