During the past few weeks, the Church has been working its way through Jesus’ Farewell Discourse (John 13:31-16:33). Christ is giving the disciples his own form of his last will and testimony. The main two themes for this final speech of Jesus are the understandings of glory and the Holy Spirit. These two themes are intimately connected and allow the disciples to bear hardships, inspire others, and unite powerfully to God.
The “glory of the Lord” is a consistent and constitutive element found throughout the Old Testament and it is taken up as a major genre in the Gospel of John. “We saw his glory,” (John 1:14) references the fact that Israel came into contact with God throughout its history, and now Yahweh is taking flesh. God’s “glory” is the appearance of God’s amazing presence that can be experienced by humans through their senses. The Dictionary of Biblical Theology notes that the Hebrew word for “glory” is kabod which is directly linked to a similar verb used to describe the action of “heaping weight on to something.”
This is why the Church explains the Holy Spirit as being “poured” out on us at our baptism and at our confirmation. The Spirit is thrown upon us and given to us as a way to experience God in mind, heart, and body. God’s glory appears, fundamentally and often, in the Tabernacle (Tent of Meeting) in Exodus, as well as through the travels of the Israelites in the desert.
“The Lord preceded them, in the daytime by means of a column of cloud to show them the way, and at night by means of a column of fire to give them light. Thus they could travel both day and night. Neither the column of cloud by day nor the column of fire by night ever left its place in front of the people.”Exodus 13:21-22
God’s physical presence with Israel never left their visible sight and he remains with us today in the Bible, the sacraments (especially the Eucharist), in our life of prayer, in our relationships with others, but all of these take place through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus takes up the message of glory in his life and teachings, and Christ is the true personification of the Father’s amazing presence. The Father’s love and defining purpose is revealed at Calvary: suffocating, unrelenting, inexhaustive, and unconditional love toward his children. Jesus’ passion and death is not a mere example of God’s awesome presence with us, but the revelation of who God is. In order to prepare the apostles for what will happen on Good Friday, Christ will leave his disciples (and the Church) his final and profound teaching.
In his farewell discourse, Christ promised his disciples and future followers that they will be filled with God’s glory through the power of the Holy Spirit. This occurred at Pentecost, the moment in time when the Holy Spirit comes to the apostles, and transforms their lives forever.
The New American Bible translation, that we use at Mass, describes the Holy Spirit as the “Advocate” which is the Latin translation of the word “Paraclete.” This word comes straight from the language used inside of a courtroom. One’s Advocate is the person you call to defend you, to literally stand at your side. You experience their presence with you through your senses. Their proximity to your side evokes a presence that is continuous by its very nature. The definition of glory as “heaping weight on to something” is highlighted most poignantly through the active verb of “heaping.” This word is providential because the Spirit never relinquishes, never ceases giving aid to the disciples and to each one of us.
Defining the Holy Spirit as God’s glory revealed to humanity is not a theologically abstract conversation, but a concept that is grounded in the Scriptures and in the words of Christ himself. At Pentecost we are told that, “tongues as of fire … came to rest on each one of them” (Acts 2:3). Fire gives off heat and light which accomplishes contact with the senses. Jesus states that the main purpose of the Holy Spirit is to enable the disciples, and us, to realize that, “you are in me and I am in you” (John 14:20).
Here, we reach the climax, the pinnacle of the Holy Spirit’s role and effect on the Christian. The Advocate comes so that we can become more attentive to recognizing that Jesus Christ resides within us and that this divine life inside of us ushers forth from us when we allow the Holy Spirit to run the show.
Contact with the fire of the Holy Spirit and the glory of God always inspires, always challenges, always pushes us beyond ourselves. Jesus’ farewell teaching presents us with the recipe for communion with him: recognition that God’s glory resides within us and allowing it to move us to leave the Upper Room to bring it to the world. That is Pentecost glory.
You May Also Like:
Thomas Griffin teaches apologetics in the Religion Department at a Catholic high school and lives on Long Island with his wife. He has a master’s degree in theology from St. Joseph’s Seminary and College along with a bachelor’s degree in theology and philosophy from Molloy College. Thomas has written for several online Catholic blogs. Follow his (and his twin brother’s) article posts and videos @CalledTwin.