by Father Mike Stubbs
“Abogado” might sound like the Spanish word for avocado, but actually it is the word for a lawyer. The related French word “avocat” means the same thing.
That provides the background for applying the English word “Advocate” to the Holy Spirit in Jn 15:26-27; 16:12-15, one of the options for the Gospel reading on Sunday, the solemnity of Pentecost: “When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me.”
Calling the Holy Spirit a lawyer places these words of Jesus into the context of a courtroom scene. Similarly, the action of the Holy Spirit in testifying fits in with the happenings of a trial.
And who is standing trial? It is the world, for failing to believe in Jesus. Thus, Jesus says in the next chapter of the Gospel: “And when [the Advocate] comes he will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation: sin, because they do not believe in me” (Jn 16:8-9).
We should remember that Jesus says these things in John’s Gospel as part of the farewell discourse during the Last Supper.
The very next day, Jesus will appear before the Sanhedrin and before Pontius Pilate where he will be accused of the crimes of blasphemy against God and treason against the Roman emperor.
In contradiction to the false testimony brought against him, Jesus will inform Pilate that he himself is giving true testimony: “For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth” (Jn 18:37).
While it may look as though Jesus is standing trial, John’s Gospel is telling us that the one who should be on trial is the world, for its failure to believe in Jesus. He is innocent; the world is guilty.
Besides predicting that the Holy Spirit will testify on his behalf, Jesus, during the farewell discourse, assures his disciples that they will join in witnessing as well: “And you also will testify” (Jn 15:27).
The Holy Spirit will strengthen the disciples and enable them to witness to Christ.
On the solemnity of Pentecost, we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit to the church. At the same time, we remember that the Holy Spirit is given to us in order to equip us in our mission as disciples of Christ, to share the good news about Christ with those around us.
We are called to witness to the world about him.