Word for the day by Christian Education Forum


The Feast Of Pentecost: 
The Holy Spirit who Renews Everything

John 16:1-15
Vs.7 “Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”
The Feast of Pentecost, which the Church celebrates on the 50th day after Easter, signifies the arrival of the gift of the Holy Spirit, as promised by Jesus Christ, and the birth of the Church. The event, which was a unique manifestation of the outpouring of the Spirit, was aimed at communicating to the Jews that the Jesus they had crucified, and whom God had raised from the dead, was indeed the promised Messiah. We often associate the coming of the Holy Spirit exclusively with its manifestation on the day of Pentecost and fail to recognize its presence from the time of creation: “The spirit of God moved over the waters” - Genesis 1:2. Jesus was led by the Spirit in his preaching, healing, compassion for the marginalized, and in his passion and death. After Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension, the Holy Spirit came in Christ’s place to continue his ministry. The Spirit is thus a continuation of Christ. 

John sees this same Spirit being given to the faith community as an advocate or Paraclete (parakletos). This word evokes a rich, all-embracing picture of the Spirit as a constant presence, teacher, comforter, guide, helper, friend, consoler, spokesperson and witness. The Paraclete is intimately tied to Jesus’s preparation of his disciples for their life after his ascension into heaven.

The Paraclete: A Continuing Presence of Jesus in the Post-Resurrection Community
The Paraclete is positioned as the link between the historical ministry of Jesus and the life of the Church after his death and resurrection. Through the promise of the Paraclete, John portrays Jesus’s death, resurrection, and ascension not as the end, but as the beginning of a new era in the life of the faith community. In John 16:7-8, Jesus goes so far as to speak of his departure as being for the disciples’ good, so that they will be able to share in the advent of the Paraclete. Future generations of believers are not left alone, bereft of the experience of God made known in the incarnation, because the Paraclete takes that experience of God and extends it beyond the limits of Jesus’s life and death. The promise of the Paraclete thus provides the ultimate definition of what Jesus means when he says, “Abide in me as I abide in you” (15:4). The presence of the Paraclete means that there are no temporal or spatial limits on Jesus’s love and on the believers’ access to that love. The love of God, made known in the incarnation, continues in the life of the community through the gift of the Paraclete.

The Paraclete: As Teacher and Witness
Jesus’s teachings in the farewell discourse consistently depict the Paraclete as a teacher and witness, and this depiction explains the role of the Paraclete in forming and shaping the Christian community. The presence of the Paraclete within the community as a witness provides the grounds for Jesus’s exhortation to the community that they, too, must be witnesses. The community will endure persecution as a result of its faith, but the promise of the Paraclete, who will be a co-witness to Jesus alongside the community, offers it encouragement. The Spirit serves as a reminder that the community will not be alone in its trials. The witnessing of the Paraclete and that of the community are not two distinct acts; rather, the community’s witnessing is the visible sign of the Paraclete’s work as a witness. The warrant for the community’s witnessing is that it has been with Jesus “from the beginning” and provides historical continuity between the ministry of Jesus and the subsequent ministry of the Church.

The Paraclete: Equipping the Church to Uphold Christ’s Values in Society
Verses 8-11 paint a vivid picture of the Paraclete’s activity in the world. It is one of a trial, in which the Paraclete has the role of a prosecuting attorney and the world is the defendant, standing before the believing community. In his farewell discourse, Jesus said that the Spirit “will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16: 8). The modern world is plagued with a plethora of human-made problems, and the root cause is sin (both individual and corporate). The Spirit has mandated the Church to confront the sin in the world. It is the Church’s mission to call upon all to examine their conscience and repent. The Spirit helps the Church to proclaim the truth with boldness.

Consumerism and materialism are systematically destroying Christian values in society. Unabated greed and cut-throat competition is driving people to overuse resources and endanger the ecological balance. The Church needs the courage of the Spirit to be a witness of Christ’s values in society. It must work for the uplift of the marginalised, and challenge every unjust political and social structure that deprives people of their dignity. The Spirit thus leads and equips the Church to be Christ-centred, to cherish and practise the values of Christ in society, and to bear witness to Him.

The Paraclete: Leading the Church to the Truth and Proclaiming the Future
In John 16:12-15, the focus shifts to the Paraclete’s functions within the faith community. First, “he will guide you into all the truth” (v. 13a). The verb “to guide”, points to the instructional role of God in leading the community into right and faithful behaviour. Its combination with “truth” is an echo of John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life”. To say that the Paraclete will guide the disciples into all truth is to say that it will lead the community into the life-giving revelation of God in Jesus.

Second, the Paraclete “will declare to you the things that are to come” (v. 13c). The verb “to declare” means to proclaim what has been heard. “The things that are to come” may refer specifically to the events of Jesus’s hour and to events for which Jesus cannot prepare the community now (v. 12). The Paraclete will proclaim the teachings of Jesus to them in the new and changing circumstances of their lives. The promise of verse 13c is that the presence of the Paraclete will ensure that all believers will be open to fresh proclamations from Jesus.

The Paraclete: A Reminder of Universality and Missionary Character of the Church
On the day of Pentecost, people from different language and cultural backgrounds gathered in Jerusalem and were able to understand what St. Peter preached. Hearing his sermon, around 3,000 people repented and accepted Jesus as their Lord. More than a miracle of speaking in several languages, it was a miracle of communication. This is what happens when the Gospel is proclaimed. The Holy Spirit makes communication possible and works in the listener to respond to it favorably. This shows that God’s message was not only for the Jews but also for all people. It lays emphasis on the universality and the missionary character of the Church, which is to embrace all nations and to proclaim the Kingdom of God. The Spirit continues to guide the Church in all her missionary activities and ensures that she remains ‘the light of the world’ and ‘the salt of the earth’.

The seventh assembly of the World Council of Churches, which met in February 1991 in Canberra, was an important ecclesial event. The theme of the Assembly was expressed in the form of a prayer: ‘Come, Holy Spirit — renew the whole creation’. ‘Giver of Life, sustain your creation! Spirit of Truth set us free! Spirit of Unity, reconcile your people! Holy Spirit, transform and sanctify us!’ It was within these four sub-themes that the Assembly addressed the major issues concerning the world. In Jesus, God enters into the pain of the world, suffering with all creation, while at the same time the Spirit transforms death into redeeming love and radical new life.
Breath of God, gently whispering in our ears, remove the dust of apathy which clouds our vision. Energise us, that we may be a source of comfort for the sick, of solace for the bereaved. O Holy spirit, of comfort and change, send us out in confidence and joy to keep the faith and share it. Amen. 

Rev. Vinith Mathew
Salem Mar Thoma Church, Nooranad

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