To love Jesus means to trust him. And that means that we trust his radical teaching about an ideal of unselfish loving. Those who think this is dangerous foolishness belong to the “world,” which is interested only in self-promotion and self-protection. The secular ideal is to take care of oneself first, and to think of others later…which too often means not at all.
Jesus knows that his teaching seems unpromising and so he sends to those who try to be unselfish an Advocate who is the “Spirit of truth.” This divine Spirit will be present to our inmost being and will assure us that the path traced out by Jesus will in fact lead to freedom and joy. This powerful Spirit will also guide us in knowing how to love properly in all the circumstances of our lives.
Those who are truly concerned for the welfare of others will often appear foolish and may even be ridiculed for their apparently improvident behavior. But the Spirit will convince them that they are with Jesus, and therefore with the Father. For “… whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”
As mere creatures, we are all vulnerable to a deep anxiety about personal extinction. For this reason, being self-centered becomes a kind of defense mechanism by which we struggle to hold ourselves together against all the forces of disintegration. The gospels tell us, however, that it is only by taking the risk of reaching out in love that our identity can be assured. Those who seem to gain their lives in this world by selfish behavior will lose it, and those who seem to lose their lives by loving others will gain it back again in the richest measure imaginable.
In attempting to live this paradox, we are assured of the gift of the divine Spirit, who will stand by us (which is what Paraclete/Advocate literally means) and will give us a deep confidence about the wisdom of the way of Jesus. Contrary to all expectations, the more we dare to reach out in love to others, the more our “home base” will be protected and strengthened.
When Jesus promised an Advocate to his disciples, who dreaded his imminent departure from them, he was telling them that he would be with them in this divine Spirit more truly than he had ever been present to them in the flesh. This re-assurance is meant for us also. Sometimes we may think that those who knew Jesus in his earthly life had a great advantage over us but this is not at all the case. Jesus is far more truly present now “in the Spirit” than he ever was in his bodily existence in Palestine. As we struggle to maintain our identity as good and loving persons, we must know that Jesus is ever at our side.
The most important consequence of this presence of Jesus in our lives is the profound conviction, given to us by the Spirit, that we are embraced by the heavenly Father’s love, just as Jesus was embraced by that love. This is what St. Paul tells us when he writes, “God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!'” (Galatians 4:6). If we listen to this Spirit, we will become ever more confident, peaceful and generous in spite of the adversities that we may find in our lives.
Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.