I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7)
Why did Christ consider his absence so important? Couldn’t Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, joined from all eternity with the Father, co-exist on this earth, even with us?
Though he was leaving, Jesus did assure us that he would not leave us orphans.
Ah, that word! I understand “orphan” very well, having lost my father before the age when I might have remembered him. Richard Rohr, in an interview, referred to the prevalence of “father hunger” among men doing time in prisons. The apostle Philip asked Jesus, “Just show us the Father; that will be enough.” Even though Philip had lived with Jesus for all that time, he didn’t realize that he was already seeing the Father in the Person of his Teacher who always lived in the presence of his Father:
The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what is pleasing to him. (John 8:29)
Reaching for the Eternal
One possible explanation for Christ insisting on the need for his absence is that we must learn to stretch our spiritual capacity by reaching for the very soul of God, almost on our own. Jesus would physically leave but not abandon us, as he then lavished the Holy Spirit upon us.
“Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” says the old proverb. This statement might be true in Harlequin romances, but not in real life. Absence makes the heart hurt. And well Jesus knew this, and emphasized how much we need to reach out to the Holy Spirit, detaching ourselves little by little from all that is not Spirit, thus preparing to become true children of the heavenly Father.
Our vision, like Philip’s needs to extend beyond the physical, beyond the absence, beyond that empty space that we think is nothingness, reaching ultimately to that world beyond, into the “kingdom that is not of this world.”
Sometimes referred to as the “forgotten” person of the Trinity, we come to realize the importance of the Spirit in how Jesus refers to Him, especially in the Gospel of John. Here Jesus names the Spirit Comforter, Advocate, Paraclete. The Spirit is the One who will stand by us always, to enlighten and strengthen us, to appeal to the Father on our behalf, and to speak for us in our clumsy efforts at prayer (see Romans 8:14-17).
The Unending Gift
St. Paul tells the Ephesians that we have been “sealed with the promised holy Spirit, which is the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s possession.” (Eph. 1:13b-14a) “Sealed”: fixed, glued to the Spirit, never to be separated from God (despite Christ’s apparent absence). We have been given the Spirit and with this, an everlasting legacy as God’s children, adopted through our brotherhood with Christ.
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. (Romans 8:14-17)
Therefore, from this season on, we do not need to sing the hymn “Come, Holy Ghost.” The Holy Spirit is already overflowing within us. All we have to do is to recognize and accept the Spirit of Christ and the Father, so that we may receive with joy the gift of our unending adoption into the Trinity.
We don’t need to understand the Trinity. We only need to bask in it.