Spiritual Lessons from the Gospel of John: John 16
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Jesus said to his disciples:
“Now I am going to the one who sent me,
and not one of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’
But because I told you this, grief has filled your hearts.
But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go.
For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you.
But if I go, I will send him to you.
And when he comes he will convict the world
in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation:
sin, because they do not believe in me;
righteousness, because I am going to the Father
and you will no longer see me;
condemnation, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.” – John 16:5-11
In John 16, what we see is Jesus is giving us, through John, this sense of what the Spirit does, what the Advocate does. Who’s the Spirit advocating for anyway? Why are You calling Him the Advocate?
Because of course, the word in Greek, can mean advocate. Almost like someone who is going to take the place, before God’s throne on behalf of you. It can also mean Paraclete, or the announcer of the good news. The bringer of good tidings.
The term has a great versatility. But why call him the Advocate? That’s the first thing. Because the Advocate is taking your side, as it were, in a court. Like an advocate can be a lawyer. And so you think, well why would we need any side in a court of law? And of course, because you have a prosecuting attorney out there. Who’s trying to, as it were, debilitate you and bring your case to prosecution. And who is that? Well that’s the evil spirit.
That’s the devil. That’s Satan himself. Who becomes what the book of Revelations calls the accuser. And Bishop Fulton J. Sheen had this wonderful passage, where he says, “You know, when you’re ready to sin or about to sin, the devil is your advocate. He’s your supporter and your friend. And the minute you sin, he becomes the accuser. He wants to bring you to despair.”
The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, when you’re about to sin, He’s basically the one who’s trying to prevent you from sinning. Advocating for you, as it were, to prevent you from so doing. But after the sin, He is the one who is presenting you before God, as someone worthy as it were, to be rescued. Worthy to be redeemed, worthy to be brought into the fullness of Heaven.
John 16: There is Absolutely No Need for Despair
And therefore, there’s absolutely, as Bishop Sheen would say, no need for despair. Because the Advocate that you have, the Proclaimer of the good news that you have is perfect hope itself, the complete antidote to despair.
And so that’s one dimension that we just have to remember. Is that no matter what happens, in fact, it’s not just if we are in the case of sin, but if we’re suffering, it’s the Holy Spirit that comes to us and really tries to give us the good news. He is the herald of the good news. The Paraclete, the Proclaimer that is telling us, all will be well. Everything is in God’s hands. Offer this suffering up to God, for the redemption of sins and for the Church, and of course, above all, for the salvation of souls. Particularly your own and those of your family and friends.
All these things are clearly a part of the role of the Holy Spirit. To bring hope. So He’s your Advocate. He’s always your defender. He’s your hope against the despair that of course may come in the wake of suffering or sin. He’s the one that is building you up. And of course, as we get in this passage, He has condemned the prince of this world. Jesus has condemned the prince of this world. And brought him low. And that’s what the Spirit is going to say: “Don’t ever listen to the devil. Don’t ever listen to his accusations.”
Don’t ever listen to his thoughts about despair. He is done away with. The prince of this world has been condemned. And of course if that’s the case, then all there is, is of course the hope in Jesus Christ. The hope that we have that all of our sufferings will be brought into redemption and fruition for us, for the world, when we make those morning offerings, and offer them up and join them to the sins of Jesus Christ. There’s hope in times of sin, there’s hope in times of suffering. There’s always hope because Jesus Christ has won the victory for us. And the one who wants to turn these occasions into despair, has been completely defeated.
And that hope, that’s worth remembering. Especially when we get into the challenging moments and when we get into those moments of real difficulty or suddenly we could be right in the midst of good spiritual or moral conversion and discover, wow looking back on my life, I was a pretty rotten guy. Or whatever. And even that, the devil comes right in and says, “Yes you were, you were a very rotten guy. And you are not worthy of anything, you piece of trash.”
At which point the Holy Spirit, taking the redemptive hope, in our Gospel reading today, comes right into our hearts, and gives us peace. And gives us that hope. The pure antidote to despair.
Take it. Amen.