The Advocate

My Frassati meditation today (I’m back to writing them on Tuesdays):
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Now I am going to the one who sent me,
and not one of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’
But because I told you this, grief has filled your hearts.
But 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.
And when he comes he will convict the world
in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation:
sin, because they do not believe in me; 
righteousness, because I am going to the Father
and you will no longer see me;
condemnation, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.”
(John 16: 5-11)
This reading seems eschatological (end-of-worldly) at first, with condemnation of the world being the final takeaway–it is difficult to remember that the Ascension and Pentecost are upon us liturgically, when it feels as though Easter has just begun, especially now with spring (summer?) finally arriving. Perhaps an easy reading of this passage is one that promotes detachment in the spiritual life, especially as May is a time of transition for many of us. A more helpful sense of this reading for me this morning is one of living in hope. We are righteous because we “do not see and yet believe” (cf. Jn 20:29), because we know that the ruler of this world has already been condemned, conquered in Christ’s victory on the Cross. “The accuser of our brothers is cast out,/who night and day accused them before God” (Rev. 12:10). What does this mean for us–does it mean that we, in fact, are already free? And yet why are the listeners’ hearts filled with grief; why do they not rejoice? Because they lack sufficient hope, because they, like us, believe holiness was something they achieved in a specific set of circumstances–that the Lord must be physically present and that things cannot change from the way they have been for the past three years. It’s as though you can hear them saying, “We tried to get through three days with you gone–it didn’t go well.” And we know that after the Lord ascends they will continue to hide in the upper room. We must grow, our spiritual lives must mature, we will be forced out of our comfort zones and forced to put hand to plow, to reap “what you have not worked for” (Jn 4:38) and give even the last shreds of self-love–in this case, self-love as worship of one’s own holiness under a specific set of circumstances–to be immersed in Christ’s mission, which we ourselves do not dictate or control.

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