Tag Archives: Paraclete

Pentecost – the role of the Holy Spirit

May 29, 2020


As we celebrate Pentecost, this is an opportune time to reflect briefly about the nature of the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Most Holy Trinity.

As a youngster, my parish priests, the Sinsinawa Dominican religious sisters at Incarnation Catholic school where I grew up in South Minneapolis, and my parents taught me constantly about God the Father, the all-powerful Creator of the world, and Jesus, his only Son, our Savior and Redeemer, and what he did and said as reported in the gospels, but I heard next to nothing about the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier, who is more mysterious and difficult to explain.

A stained glass window is from St. Emily’s Catholic Church in Emily, Minnesota. The dove is a symbol for the Holy Spirit, and the seven rays represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.

As I have advanced in years, my devotion to and dependence upon the Holy Spirit has increased enormously. As I have searched for God, I learned that the Spirit is God’s abiding presence among us; as I have attended school, studied for tests, and written term papers, I discovered that the Spirit is enlightenment, truth, and understanding; as I have tried to live my faith with more conviction, I found out that the Spirit provides courage, stamina, and strength; as people have sought my advice, I learned that the Spirit is counsel and wisdom; and when I was ordained a priest and began the daunting task of writing homilies and articles, preaching, and exercising spiritual leadership, it became obvious that ministry is bigger than me or any human being, and the Spirit provides the insights, creativity, and inspiration.

When people ask me how they can support me as a priest, I ask them to pray to the Holy Spirit on my behalf. When it comes time to speak, the Spirit provides the words; when faced with hard decisions, the Spirit provides the guidance; when disputes arise, the Spirit is the source of justice and fairness; when tempted to react impulsively, the Spirit is patience; when sins have been committed, the Spirit makes forgiveness possible; when feeling downcast, the Spirit is joy; when self-absorbed, the Spirit teaches generosity; when filled with anxiety, the Spirit provides peace; and in the daily struggle to stay in right relationship with others, the Spirit is love, charity, and kindness.

Each of us desperately needs the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, our Advocate. As you pray to the Holy Spirit for me, I promise to pray to the Holy Spirit for you as well. The power of the Holy Spirit will wash over us, like it did over the Blessed Virgin Mary (Lk 1:35), and the Holy Spirit will brace us to live according to God’s will (Lk 1:38). In fact, with the power of the Spirit we will be able to do great things because “nothing will be impossible for God” (Lk 1:37).

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The Paraclete, our sure defense

May 15, 2020


Pentecost will be here in two weeks, the celebration of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles. In this week’s gospel Jesus promised the coming of the Holy Spirit. He said that he would ask his Father to send the Advocate (Jn 14:16) and added that the Father would send it in his name (Jn 14:26). Jesus would also send the Holy Spirit himself (Jn 15:26; 16:7).

The Greek word that Jesus used for the Holy Spirit was parakletos, translated by the Revised New American Bible as Advocate, but because the word is so rich symbolically it sometimes is left untranslated and rendered Paraclete in English.

In common Greek, the word parakletos is a legal term that usually refers to a defense attorney. John explained that Jesus is our Advocate before God (1 Jn 2:1), the one to plead our cause. The Holy Spirit does likewise. The Paraclete is our sure defense.

According to this metaphor, the sinner is in criminal court, on trial before the judgment seat of God, charged with a lifetime of offenses and guilty on all counts. The Paraclete, matchless in brilliance and wisdom, is the sinner’s defense attorney. The Paraclete knows everything about the defendant, good and bad, exercises attorney-client privilege, holds everything in absolute confidence, and would never use the information against his client.

The Paraclete is the sinner’s Counselor, the one who knows the law (i.e., the commandments), the Judge (i.e., God), the court procedures, and the sentencing guidelines, and gives the sinner the best possible advice. The trial is a time of tremendous anxiety and worry for the defendant, and the Paraclete serves as Comforter and Consoler for the accused, the one who offers reassurance, encouragement, and hope. The Paraclete is the Advocate, the one who is seated next to the sinner in the courtroom of divine justice, a true friend and faithful companion who takes the sinner’s side, speaks on behalf of the sinner to the Judge, and does so more effectively than if the defendant was speaking for himself.

The Paraclete is the master litigator and eloquently cites mitigating circumstances, explains the sinner’s good intentions, provides a comprehensive list of the good deeds the sinner has done, adds a second list of acts of penance performed, and reminds the Judge of the sinner’s faith in him and love for him. Then the Advocate makes a plea for leniency for his client, asks that the sentencing guidelines be set aside, and that the defendant be granted a full pardon.

The Paraclete is truth and knows the truth, and the truth is this: God is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in kindness (Joel 2:13); that God sent his Son into the world to save sinners (Jn 3:16); that God takes no joy whatsoever in punishment; that God wants each person to enjoy eternal peace with him in heaven for all eternity; and that for God, mercy outranks justice.

Then the Paraclete announced, “The defense rests.” The case did not go to twelve people, a jury of the sinner’s peers, all sinners themselves, but to God alone who is all holy. The Paraclete had provided a sure defense. The Son had died on the Cross for the sinner’s salvation. After due consideration the Judge read the final verdict: “Come, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (see Mt 25:34).

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