In the days leading up to Pentecost this year, one role of the Holy Spirit seems to have come up in prayer more often than others for me, but I can’t quite pin it down to one word. Instead, I think what Jesus said about this particular role of the Holy Spirit expresses it best:
“I have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come.” [John 16:12–13]
In the Office of Readings from the Church’s Liturgy of the Hours, there’s a quote from the Bishop St. Hilary of Poitiers, who compares this role of the Holy Spirit to the role that light plays for our eyes. Without light, we are unable to see, even if our eyes are in excellent condition. Similarly, without the gift of the Holy Spirit that comes with Faith, we are unable to really know God even if our minds are in excellent condition.
“Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He answered them, ‘It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” [Acts 1:6–8]
Jesus ascended into Heaven because His kingdom is not of this world. He went to Heaven because that is what we were made for, and that is why He redeemed us after we had fallen. Had He stayed here on earth, He would not have fulfilled His plan for us. But God loves us too much to leave us in some kind of mediocre half-paradise. So when the disciples asked Him that very question at the Ascension in the first chapter of Acts, perhaps some of them were still thinking that Jesus was going to restore an earthly kingdom to Israel. Sometimes we wonder why God doesn’t fix certain problems in our lives, to restore the “kingdom” we once enjoyed here for some time on earth.
But Jesus’ answer to the disciple’s question is kind of a non-answer. Instead of directly answering the question, He simply says it is not for us to know the time that God will restore what we have lost, whether that refers to fixing particular problems in our life on earth or finally admitting us by His mercy into Heaven.
Ok, so if it’s not for us to know… what should we do about it in the meantime? Jesus simply says tells them that the Holy Spirit will come upon them. Upon us.
After Jesus ascends into Heaven, where He lives and reigns in Glory with God the Father in Heaven, the only part left of the plan of salvation is to get us there too. And that’s the mission of the Holy Spirit in the world. Among the many ways that He accomplishes this, there is His role of reminding us of all that Jesus said to us, and giving us the power to receive it, be transformed, that the way, the truth, and the life may live in us.
Come Holy Spirit!
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