Column: Holy Spirit clarifies Jesus’ teaching for the apostles

in the beginning
Father Mike Stubbs is the pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park and has a degree in Scripture from Harvard University.

by Father Mike Stubbs 

When a business meeting is going to take place and one of the group’s members cannot attend, it is possible to designate another person to vote in place of the absent member. This proxy acts on behalf of the member who cannot attend.

In Sunday’s Gospel reading, Jn 14:23-29, Jesus is anticipating his impending departure. To prepare his disciples for this event, he announces to them that God will send a proxy to act on Jesus’ behalf: “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.”

By reminding the disciples of all that Jesus has taught them, the Holy Spirit will do more than merely recall the words that Jesus spoke. The Holy Spirit will help the disciples grasp the significance of those words.

We see an example of this concerning Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple, when he drives out the moneychangers and overturns the tables of those selling animals for sacrifice. Later on, the Holy Spirit will help the disciples understand what Jesus said at that moment — his comparison of his body to the Temple — and to appreciate the meaning of that event: “When he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken” (Jn 2:22).

Similarly, after his resurrection, the disciples will think back to Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, which we commemorate on Palm Sunday. The Holy Spirit will lead them into a fuller appreciation of its significance: “His disciples did not understand this at first, but when Jesus had been glorified, they remembered that these things were written about him and that they had done this for them” (Jn 12:16).

Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the disciples arrive at a clearer understanding of Jesus’ words and actions. The Holy Spirit does not teach them anything new. Instead, the Holy Spirit reminds and reinforces, clarifies and applies.

The Holy Spirit continues to do that for us, the church. According to tradition, public revelation ended with the death of the last apostle.

At the same time, the Holy Spirit continues to help us understand more clearly what God has revealed through Jesus Christ, to apply his words and example to our world.

In that way, the Holy Spirit will teach us everything.

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