Mrs. Wilson had been teaching her CCD class about the Holy Trinity. The next week as a review, she asked if anyone could name the three members of the Trinity. Young Johnny enthusiastically raised his hand and said he knew the answer, “The Holy Trinity is the Father, and the Son, and the Big Bird!” Confused, the teacher asked, “Johnny, why do you think the Holy Spirit is a big bird?” “Because,” he said. “Last week, you kept calling the Holy Spirit, the Parakeet!”
There is a story of a man who wished to tell soldiers on a military base of Christ’s love for each of them. He was prohibited by regulations from coming within the base to spread the message. So, he had several thousand hand mirrors delivered as gifts care of the chaplain. On the mirror’s back, he had printed the message from John 3.16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.” A message below the text read, “If you wish to see whom God loves, turn to the other side.”
In today’s Gospel, Jesus likewise gives to His people a mirror through His words. He took pains to hold before them the bold message that He would not leave because He loved them. He said, “I will not leave you orphans. I will come to you.”
Let’s recall the setting Jesus says this in. It was the Last Supper and Jesus had announced His impending departure. This left the disciples nervous, anxious, even depressed. But, being the astute teacher He was, Christ had to lift His people off the floor and put them back on their cushions. He promised to continue His relationship with them through a Helper. The Helper is of course the Holy Spirit. The word in Greek is Paracletos, or Paraclete – not quite the Big Bird, the Parakeet!
So, what is a Paraclete? There are many translations of the word: Advocate, Comforter, Counselor, Helper. The Greek Paracletos literally describes someone who is called to stand beside a client. In legal terms that would be your attorney. But a Paraclete is much more than an attorney. Probably the best word that we use today that captures the meaning of Paraclete is the word “coach.” The Paraclete is our coach, always by our side, to instruct and correct us when we make mistakes, to encourage and motivate us when we feel down, to challenge and inspire us to be the best we can be, to defend us and fight for us when the world is unfair. In short, the Paraclete means for all of us, what Jesus meant for the disciples.
Why do we need a Paraclete? For the same reason that athletes and sports people need coaches. No matter how good they are, athletes always need coaches. Even Big Papi, Dustin Pedroia and my favorite Red Sox this year Jed Lowrie – all need a coach. Left on our own, we are prone to mistakes and errors. Without God we can do nothing. In the 5th century ad there was a British thinker called Pelagius who taught that human beings have the natural ability to fulfill God’s commands if they so choose. The church condemned his teaching as a heresy, insisting that human beings always need God’s grace in order to please God. Pelagianism is the belief that we can fulfill our human destiny just by being ourselves, and that we do not need the grace of God that comes through faith, prayer or the sacraments. Many people today are Pelagians without even knowing it. Jesus tells us in today’s gospel that we all stand in constant need of divine help. We all need the divine Helper, the Holy Spirit who stands always by our side, the Paraclete.
How then do we receive this all-important Helper? By striving to live according to the law of Christ which is love o-f God and love of our neighbor. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever.” After the Ascension of Our Lord, the disciples “together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus” retired to the upper room to wait and pray for the promised Paraclete. We cannot do better than follow their example. We must do as they did and invite the Helper into our lives. The Helper does not enter uninvited. He waits for an invitation. But, once invited, He will lead us into truth. He guarantees we are God’s children. He helps us pray. He offers us hope. He empowers us to help other believers. He aids us to be like Him. He gives us spiritual muscle.
This Thursday is the Feast of the Ascension. Between Ascension and Pentecost the church invites all her children to a period of prayer and waiting for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Let us observe this period as a special period of prayer just as the disciples did because we need the Holy Spirit today as much as they needed it two thousand years ago.
A poet sums up the Parakletos well in these words. “Eternally the Holy Spirit is love between the Father and the Son but historically the Holy Spirit is love between God and the world.” “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. The Father will give you another Advocate to be with you always.” Come, Holy Spirit, Come!
May God give you peace!
A Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
May 29, 2011
The Holy Spirit – The Paraclete
He wore steel rimmed glasses and had hair to the middle of his back. The fringe on his buck-skinned jacket bounced as he walked.
At least that was the way I was accustomed to seeing Mike as he bopped around town. It was just a few years after Woodstock, and we were all taken with hippie culture. It seemed so free, so new, so exciting.
A Reason For Your Hope
Bottom line: We do not fear the dark. We experience life as a mysterious adventure. And we are convinced that – because of Jesus – the adventure will not end with death. That is the reason for our hope.
Today St. Peter tells us to “be ready to give an explanation – to anyone who asks you – for a reason for your hope.” We live in a time when people more openly challenge our faith. It is important to know how to respond and – as St. Peter say – “do it with gentleness and reverence.”
Living the Lessons of Love – A Meditation on the Gospel for the 6th Sunday of Easter
In the Gospel for today’s Mass Jesus gives us three lessons on love which are meant to prepare us for the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. They also go a long way towards describing the normal Christian life.
Too many Christians see the Christian Faith more as a set of rules to keep, than a love that transforms, if we accept it. Let’s take a look at the revolutionary life of love and grace that the Lord is offering us in three stages: The POWER of love, the PERSON of love, and the PROOF of love.
Saints Alive! Padre Pio and the Stigmata: Sanctity on Trial
Padre Pio was proclaimed as a living saint for the wounds he bore for Christ, but his vast reputation for sanctity became yet another kind of wound.
“Six Degrees of Separation,” a famous play by John Guare, became a 1993 film starring Will Smith, Donald Sutherland, and Stockard Channing. The plot revolved around a theory proposed in 1967 by sociologist Stanley Milgram and Frigyes Karinthy. Wikipedia describes “Six Degrees of Separation” as:
A Benedictine Monk Reflects on Remaining in Jesus the True Vine
In listening attentively to the Word of God, we come to realize authentic communion with our Lord and are perfected slowly but surely in love of His Will through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, who is able to safeguard us from despairing or presuming. ” If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you” (Jn 15.7).
Ascension, Plato and the Bible
The feast of the Ascension of the Lord, which the church celebrates at the end of the Easter season, is, I admit, hard to explain to a lot of contemporary people. Jesus passed, in bodily form, from this world to heaven? Wouldn’t his body still be in some identifiable place within the solar system or the galaxy?
On Accepting Our Weaknesses and Imperfections – St. Therese of Lisieux
The following is from an excellent book entitled the Complete Spiritual Doctrine of St. Therese of Lisieux by Father Francois Jamart. Unless noted, quotes are by Fr. Francois Jamart.
“…If, after committing a fault we accept the humiliation that follows it, this merits
for us an increase of love.”
On the weaknesses of saints: “They accept themselves the way they are and
make use of their imperfections to raise themselves nearer to God.”
The Trinity: Three Persons in One Nature
The notion is unfortunately widespread that the mystery of the Blessed Trinity is a mystery of mathematics, that is to say, of how one can equal three. The plain Christian accepts the doctrine of the Trinity; the “advanced” Christian rejects it; but too often what is being accepted by the one and rejected by the other is that one equals three. The believer argues that God has said it, therefore it must be true; the rejecter argues it cannot be true, therefore God has not said it. A learned non-Catholic divine, being asked if he believed in the Trinity, answered, “I must confess that the arithmetical aspect of the Deity does not greatly interest me”; and if the learned can think that there is some question of arithmetic involved, the ordinary person can hardly be expected to know any better.
St. Jerome wrote this:
Jacob’s ladder is probably the most famous ladder in symbolism. Its story is found in the Old Testament (Gen 28:10-17). Jacob, fleeing from the wrath of his brother, lay down to sleep with a stone for a pillow. During the night he dreamed that he saw a ladder or stairway reaching up into the heavens upon which were angels ascending and descending. At the head of the ladder was God the Father confirming the Patriachal blessing upon him and promising to protect him on his journey. Jacob called the place Bethel (house of God). Since many people have surmised that angels travel this ladder daily as they go about the Lord’s business, it has become a symbol of the comings and goings between heaven and earth of people, angels, and messages or prayers (The Letters of St. Jerome, Letter 22).
My Path to Rome
The story of my conversion is the story of four men: Pope John Paul II, my father (albeit, an unwitting guide), C. S. Lewis, and Malcolm Muggeridge. It is the story of the Church’s decision to publish a comprehensive Catechism of the Christian faith, and of a priest willing to go beyond the requirements of his office to fetch one lost sheep out of the wilderness. It is the story of faithful Catholics who prayed. And above all, first, last, and always, it is the same old story that it always is – a story of God’s grace and forgiveness and love. Deo gratias.
Three Hail Mary’s a Day Keeps Mortal Sin Away
One of the greatest and most powerful Marian devotions is the practice of reciting three Hail Mary’s every day in honor of the three Divine Persons of the Trinity and for the grace avoid all mortal sins, specifically sexual sins.
The Blessed and Immaculate Virgin Mary taught the “Three Hail Mary Devotion” to St. Mechtilde about the year 1270. It’s rather simple. Pray the three Hail Mary’s in honor of the Holy Trinity who lavished so many graces upon Mary and then end with: “O my Mother, preserve me this day (or night) from mortal sin.”
6 Reasons to Keep Meatless Fridays
1. The tradition of eating fish and not beast flesh (now beef, pork, poultry) goes back to Noah’s Ark where for the 40 day flood, they ate only fish and not beasts.
2. The mystical institution of Friday penance is Luke 5:35 “The days will come when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them: then shall they fast in those days.” Christ was “taken away” from us on Friday and so we fast on “those days,” i.e. on Fridays. Every Sunday is a “little Easter,” which means that every Friday is a “little Good Friday.” If you’re going to party on Sunday, you need to do penance on Friday.
A Biblical Walk through the Mass
The coming changes to the liturgy this November are going to be very important for our life of prayer. There are profound connections between liturgical worship and contemplation – in fact liturgical worship is both the source and summit of our personal prayer. The following review is of a book by a longtime friend of mine here in the Archdiocese of Denver who teaches at the Augustine Institute:
* While I object in principle to such things… I am going to violate my conscience for sake of science, and offer a (mildly) scientific study of a vain question:
Who are the Catholic All-Stars of the last 25 years?
By this I mean, according to Google, which names generate the greatest number of results among Catholic apologists / evangelists / prelates?
Why mothers matter
A claim recently made in a premier family science journal raised a question that likely would have shocked previous generations: “Does having a mother really matter?” The claim was based on the premise that mothers do not provide anything particularly unique in children’s development. Rather, all that children need for healthy development is two caring adults.
Or do they?
Chart: How Your Parish and Your Pastor Can Legally Lobby! (& still be tax-exempt)
The recent dust-up over a Minnesota Legislator’s office telling a Catholic priest he better watch out for his parish’s tax status if he intends to lobby for a marriage bill and this recent snotty op-ed by the editor of the Winona Daily News puts me in mind of something I’ve urgently wanted to write about for some time:
The Church Can Lobby!
Selling Celibacy Short
Self-appointed reformers always arise in times of crises offering “brilliant” solutions that attempt to demolish the Church’s most venerable traditions.
Priestly celibacy, a glorious trait of the Latin Church, has been a constant target of these so-called reformers.
Curiously enough, abolishing priestly celibacy comes hand-in-hand with destroying the indissolubility of marriage. This is easy to understand since it is based on the idea that chastity is impossible to observe. Thus, not only celibate continence is cast aside but also conjugal chastity and fidelity in marriage. Historically this happened with Eastern Orthodox schismatics, Protestants, Anglicans and others. The total or partial abolition of priestly celibacy either came together with or was preceded by permission to divorce.