John 15 and the Coming of the Advocate
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Jesus said to his disciples:
“When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth who 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.” – John 15:26 – 16:4
When we read John 15, and we’ve just had that extremely beautiful passage, “To love one another as I have loved you,” and, “You will know that you are my disciples by your love for one another. I tell you all these things that my joy may be yours and your joy may be complete.”
Now of course you look at that and you say, “Well, why did Jesus have to spoil everything by going ahead and telling us now” Well first of all He didn’t spoil everything right away. He says right away, He says, “Well, the Holy Spirit, or the Advocate, is going to come and he’s going to not only remind you of everything that I’ve said to you, he’s going to inspire you, he’s going to give you even more. He’s going to enable you to spread the Church throughout the world.”
And then He says, “But at first the son of man is going to have to die and be put to death at the hands of the chief priests, and I’m telling you this now because when it all happens, then you’ll remember that I said this to you.”
And you look at that and you go, “Well, why did He have to bring up the cross along with, gosh, the love, the resurrection, the coming of the Holy Spirit. ‘I tell you all these things that my joy may be yours’ and now there’s going to be great sadness and tribulation, etc.”
Well, the reason is that, right in the middle of that passage where He says, “Love one another as I have loved you,” He says something else very important. Right before He says “They’ll know you’re my disciples by your love for one another,” He says, “There is no greater love than this, and to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. There is love.”
I don’t know if there is a crucifix in sight wherever you are, but if there is, take a good long look at it.
Well if you look at that, there is love. There is unconditional love. That’s what love means. And Jesus says, not only that He loves us unconditionally, but He also says time and time again that that’s going to be asked of us in some way or another.
John 15 and the Purpose of Our Suffering
It’s going to be asked of us that we somehow sacrifice of ourselves for other people. Now of course that can happen just with ordinary suffering that we offer up, or it could happen with our families, or our kids could give us difficulties, or we could have troubles in the workplace, or all kinds of things could happen.
And all these things can be a real burden and suffering. But Jesus is saying, “Don’t worry about that. All this suffering will lead to your purgation of your souls, to the purification of your love, to the purification of your faith and humility. This is okay. It’s okay. Don’t get worried. Everything will be all right.”
And then He says also, “You can offer all of that up and you can join me in this great gift of love. Love that will lead to the reparation of sins, love that will lead to the salvation of souls. Love that will lead ultimately to the Church. Don’t worry. And the advocate will tell you about all of these things, but there’s love. Just expect that if I’m doing that, if I’m giving you this example, then of course you know that there’s going to be suffering in your own life and it’s unavoidable. But take up your cross and follow me. The suffering will purify you. The self sacrifice given over for the life of the world. The sacrifice given over in love for the redemption of souls, the salvation of souls. It’ll all be for our collective salvation together.”
And so of course Jesus says, “It’s okay.” But there’s that constant balance going on between the resurrection, love, joy, and the cross and suffering.
So it’s that balance of these, on the one hand the ‘good’ news, and also the cross, which is the hard news. But of course they’re going to find a confluence so that even the hardest of hard news is not bad news. It’s going to be the good news that’s converted into eternal joy, not only for us, but for all the people for whom we sacrifice.