Many of us have received the sacraments of baptism and confirmation. Through the power of God given to us in the sacraments, we have been given an Advocate. We hear in the Gospel for the Sixth Sunday of Easter (John 14:15-21) of Jesus’ concern for His disciples once He leaves their physical presence. He reminds them of the commandments God has given to them, challenges them to be faithful to them and walk the path that He set out for them. We all know what can take place when an important person in our lives leaves us. When they are not in our proximity, we can be tempted to doubt what they said, to doubt their love for us and to doubt if they will be faithful to their promises.
As we see and read in the Acts of the Apostles, the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, is being poured out upon all kinds of people, some within the expected group and some who were surprises. Again the disciples were challenged to let God lead them rather than follow their own prejudgments or expectations. God will pour the Spirit upon those He wishes and will use them according to His will. They, and we, are asked to pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit so that we can be the community of faith that God has called us to be.
We are two weeks away from the celebration of Pentecost. These weeks leading up to Pentecost, we are asked to do what is necessary to receive the Holy Spirit. What will that mean for each of us? How can our bodies, minds and souls be made ready for so great a gift? If we have already experienced the power of the advocate in our lives, how can we pray for a deepening of the Holy Spirit?
Because we live about 2,000 years after Jesus walked the earth, we have some understanding of what a difference the presence of the Advocate can make in a person’s life or in the life of a community. We know that the presence of the Advocate brings to us gifts. These are not gifts that automatically begin to influence our lives. These are gifts that need to be used, exercised and practiced. Do you notice any need for wisdom, understanding, counsel, courage, knowledge, reverence, or awe and wonder? During this time of great reflection about life and the importance of it, have you noticed a need for any of these gifts? Would you like to ask for a deeper outpouring of one or more of these gifts?
Let’s take this step by step. Don’t start with “Gimme, gimme, gimme.” Start where Jesus says to start. If you would like an Advocate to be a powerful presence in your life, follow the commandments that Jesus gave us:
“Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” Not one of us has completely followed that commandment. There are parts of our lives that we still want to rule. We won’t let God take us where He wills; we want it our way and want to be in control. Instead, choose to voluntarily self-empty. Remain open to being led rather than always leading. Listen instead of always talking. Let God have the first word, not the last.
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” That person, whoever he or she may be, is your neighbor. It has nothing to do with us deciding who deserves love and who doesn’t. Remember the Good Samaritan, the woman caught in adultery and the many times when God has been merciful to us when we didn’t deserve it! These choices will open space for the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, to lead and guide us.
Father Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.
Editor’s note: Bishop Robert J. Hermann is taking a break from writing the Sunday Scriptures column.