THE COUNSELLOR සහයදායකයාණන්වහන්සේ
We Christians believe in God. It is our faith that God, the ultimate reality, became a human being in Jesus Christ. We have never seen God. Although we read about Jesus in the Bible and believe that He is alive, we have never seen Him.
In those early days after the Crucifixion, there were people who saw Jesus face to face. Among them, the most important group were His twelve disciples. When Jesus was with them, they were courageous, confident and happy. After Jesus was crucified, they were devastated. They stayed in an upper room. They did not have the courage to come out. But when they saw Him and knew that He has risen from the dead, once again they became happy. Nevertheless, they were not courageous and confident.
Then, the risen Christ told them that He must leave them, to their dismay. This was so that they could receive ‘the gift from above’. When Jesus said this, they did not understand Him. What did Jesus mean when He said that He had to go away for them to receive this gift from the Father?
In John’s Gospel, this gift is called the ‘Paraclete’. This Greek word can mean advocate, intercessor, teacher, helper or comforter. The word ‘paraclete’ for the Holy Spirit appears only in John’s Gospel. Why did the writer use this word? As the writer of the last Gospel at the end of the first century or the beginning of the second, he was probably faced with the challenge of explaining the nature of this gift from above, which is the Holy Spirit. St. Paul had to explain the meaning of the Holy Spirit when writing to the church in Corinth. Indeed, not only in the first and second centuries of our Lord but throughout the history of Christianity this has been a problem. Many Christians have used the Holy Spirit to justify various things.
Let me tell you a story, which is said to be true. Once in a rural parish in England, there was a Vicar who never prepared his sermons. Though many parishioners were unhappy about his sermons, nobody wanted to tell him. One day, William Temple, the Archbishop of Canterbury of that time, decided to take a short holiday in that area and went to this church on Sunday where this clever Vicar never prepared his sermons. When the Vicar came into the church, he was surprised to see the Archbishop and invited him to preach and celebrate, but the Archbishop was cleverer than him and said, “Thank you, but I am having a holiday. Please carry on with your service”. The Vicar said: “Your Grace, I never prepare my sermons, but the Holy Spirit gives me words and I tell these to my congregation.” The Archbishop just kept quiet.
At the end of the service, the Archbishop went to the vestry and asked the Vicar to kneel and gave him a blessing, saying: “With divine permission, I remove your agreement with the Holy Spirit.” He then asked the Vicar to get up and said: “In future for God’s sake, please prepare your sermons.”
Often, we are not very different from that Vicar. We try to use the Holy Spirit for our convenience. Like that Vicar, we don’t fool the Holy Spirit, but we fool ourselves.
What, then, is the nature of the Holy Spirit? Let me use a metaphor to explain this. The power of the Holy Spirit can be compared to the growing power contained in a seed. Although the growing power is within the seed, if we don’t sow it, we cannot expect the harvest. To produce the harvest, we must prepare the ground and do all the other necessary things.
Just as the growing power of the seed is in the seed, the power of the Holy Spirit is in us. But, as we must sow the seed in suitable soil and nurture the plant so that it becomes strong, we must do our part to receive the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit cannot be used like an aspirin or paracetamol tablet to get rid of our headaches.
As the writer of John’s Gospel says, the Holy Spirit teaches us and reminds us of what Jesus said and did. The Holy Spirit comforts us and intercedes for us. And stands on behalf of us as an advocate.
We should remember that all these things are possible if only we accept the power of the Holy Spirit like the growing power of the seed and do all that is needed to be sure of a good harvest.
Let us, therefore, do our part in our lives to receive the gift of God, the Holy Spirit.