Living Easter: Rediscovering the Divine Within

Although we are celebrating the Sixth Sunday after Easter this weekend, the reading from John’s Gospel is taken from the Last Supper Narrative. For those familiar with John’s Gospel and the role Jesus plays in it as teacher, wisdom, and giver of life, this is no surprise. The Last Supper Narrative in John is three times longer (195 verses) than the same narratives in Matthew, Mark, and Luke combined (56 verses). This is typical for John, who uses every opportunity for Jesus to teach his disciples — both the Twelve and all believers who will follow.

The Gospel reading consists of only six verses, but it is extremely compact. It is loosely structured around the love the disciple has for Jesus (verses 15, 21, mentioned three times). Oddly, the love of the disciple for Jesus is not a common theme in the Synoptic Gospels, where the belief of the disciple in Jesus is far more common. So, there is something particular that John wishes to stress in underlining the love of the disciple/believer for Jesus. If we include verses 22-24 the pattern becomes even more obvious. In verse 23, Jesus once again speaks of the disciple/believer loving him. That rounds out the pattern.

In verses 15-16 the one who loves Jesus will receive “another Paraclete,” the Spirit of Truth sent by the Father at the request of the Son. This Paraclete will “dwell” within them. Although the world will not see Jesus, the loving believer will know that Jesus in in the Father and that the believer is in Jesus and Jesus in the believer (verse 20). Lastly if the believer loves Jesus and keeps his word, the “Father will love him (the believer) and we (the Father and Jesus) will come to him and make our home with him” (verse 23).

Within an extremely brief context — within the context of the disciple/believer’s love for Jesus — there is the promise of a three-fold divine indwelling, viz., that of “another Paraclete,” that of Jesus and that of Jesus and the Father.

The notion of the/a Paraclete (Greek: paraklētos) is peculiar to the writings of John, i.e., the Gospel and letters of John. In this first occurrence it is a bit jarring when Jesus speaks of “another Paraclete” (allon paraklēton). Is there more than one? To whom is Jesus referring? In this introduction of the “other Paraclete,” Jesus refers to the Paraclete as the “Spirit of Truth.” Historically Christians have identified the Paraclete with the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity. In fact, it may be more complicated.

The word paraklētos in Greek has many meanings, which probably explains why it often goes untranslated. In Greek, a paraklētos can be someone who defends a person—an advocate—or gives witness in court. Likewise, it may refer to someone who gives counsel or consolation—a comforter. This may provide a clue Jesus’ expression “another Paraclete.” In 1 John 2:1 the author speaks of sinners have “an advocate (paraklētos) with the Father, Jesus Christ the Just One.” When Jesus in John 14 speaks of “another Paraclete,” he is stating it is not him. The Paraclete of which Jesus speaks here is the one who comes after the earthly Jesus has departed:  “…because unless I go, the Paraclete will not come to you.” (John 16:7, 13-15)

“In a very few verses, John has given us a tremendous challenge — namely, to rediscover the presence of the Godhead, the Trinity, that is indwelling in each of us. In this time of pandemic, it is also a great consolation.”

Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D.

According to John, the life of the believer is by nature Trinitarian. The Father sends the Son, who returns to the Father as the Risen Christ. At the request of the Son (14:16)—Christ exalted at the right hand of the Father—the Paraclete is sent to give witness to Christ. The Father and Son then manifest themselves to the believer and make their home with him/her (14:23). While the doctrine of the Trinity is in many ways difficult to understand — in fact, impossible to understand totally — it is a major loss when it is overlooked in our theology, our prayer and our experience of God.

What makes us Christian is not just that we “believe in Jesus.” Muslims and some Hindus and Buddhists “believe in Jesus,” though admittedly not in the same way as Christians. Neither is “accepting Jesus as my personal savior” alone what makes us Christians. What makes us Christians is that we believe that God (the Father) has saved us in Christ (the Word/Son) through the working of the Holy Spirit. Salvation is the act of the entire Godhead, one God in three divine persons. Likewise, a Trinitarian spirituality realizes that it is much more than just “Jesus loves me.” The very Godhead, Father, Son and Holy Spirit comes and dwells in us. We are never alone. St. Paul tells us that it is though the Spirit, sent by Christ, that we can call God Abba, Father! (Romans 8:15). For the believer, the presence—the indwelling—of the Godhead is at the center of our being as Christians, giving witness even here to our salvation and calling us to be and making us holy.

Just as the divinity of Jesus was not always obvious — especially on Calvary — but was also there, so too it is with us. When we are sinful, when we are crushed by fear, sickness, murderous viruses and meanness of spirt — our own and that of others — the divine indwelling of the Godhead is not that obvious.

It is, nonetheless, there — waiting to transform us into the very image of Christ.

In a very few verses, John has given us a tremendous challenge — namely, to rediscover the presence of the Godhead, the Trinity, that is indwelling in each of us. In this time of pandemic, it is also a great consolation. Despite our weakness, fears, fragility and even tendency to sin, the divine is still at our core as Christians — transforming us and leading us to salvation.

As difficult as it may be at times to see or feel, as Christians we are profoundly convinced that there is something of the divine in us.

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