Meditations on St. John’s Gospel—Chapter Sixteen
Our Lord is still preparing His disciples for His leaving them. He wants them not to be scandalized (vs. 1) either by this—and the manner in which He will be maltreated beforehand—or by what will befall them afterwards. He lets them know in advance (vs. 4), as He already had done concerning His own Person,1 that they will be roughly treated (15:20) and even killed (vs. 2). He had already told them this,2 but not till now (vs. 5) that this would be also at the hands of the religious leaders in Israel (vs. 2). It is a special suffering, and a ready cause for scandal, to be ill judged and condemned by God’s ministers on earth. We see in our day, for example, how many are intellectually in agreement with those of integral Catholic faith about the Conciliar and post-Conciliar errors, but go along with them because of the Pope and their bishops. “Scandal” is to encourage in wrongdoing, which authorities do easily (even unwittingly—vs. 2) by word or example. And yes, all this can happen even in Christian times (III Jn. 10). But here, “These things they will do to you, because they have not known the Father, nor me” (vs. 3, cf. 8:19). “To know” is not only to grasp intellectually or be familiar with, as is true even of the devils knowing God,3 but to acknowledge and accept.4
Still to prepare them for His departure, He adds: “It is expedient to you that I go: for if I go not, the Paraclete will not come to you” (vs. 7). We may note that this can be “expedient” only if the “Paraclete” to come matches their loss of the Lord Jesus, Who is God; if, therefore, He Himself, the “Spirit of truth” (vs. 13), is also God. And so it is. He is the “vivifier,” the giver of divine life, which is His to give. “Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh, is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit, is spirit” (3:5f). These are they who are “born of God” (1:13). “He breathed on them and said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them” (20:22f).5 In God, there are three Persons: “And I will ask the Father and he shall give you another Paraclete” (14:16). Within the Trinity, there is a “procession” of Person from Person: both the Son (8:42) and the Holy Ghost (15:26) proceed from the Father, Who proceeds from none. This is too why the Father cannot be “sent”: One is sent only by a Person from Whom One proceeds. Hence, Jesus’ very frequent reference, in the fourth gospel, to the Father as “He who sent me.” Now, the Paraclete is sent not only by the Father in Jesus’ name (14:26), but also by the Son, from the Father (15:26). All that the Son has—and this is firstly the deity—He gives to the Holy Ghost. “He shall receive of mine… All things whatsoever the Father hath are mine. Therefore, I said he shall receive of mine…” (vs. 14f). “There are three who give testimony in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost. And these three are one” (I Jn. 5:7).
Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit’s coming as something future (vs. 7f, 13, etc.); indeed, “as yet the Spirit was not given because Jesus was not yet glorified” (7:39). Such texts are to be understood of the solemn coming of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost or His more abundant coming thanks to the sacraments of the New Law, but not absolutely.6 His mission will be to make flourish the work begun by Our Lord: “He shall glorify me” (vs. 14). Jesus is the “Savior of the world” (4:42); the Holy Ghost is vivifier and sanctifier: “He that believeth in me, as the scripture saith, ‘Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.’ Now, this he said of the Spirit which they should receive who believed in him” (7:38f). Our Lord was teacher (13:13); the Spirit of truth “will teach you all truth” (vs. 13). In particular, “When he is come” (vs. 8) at Pentecost and has endowed the Apostles with power from on high (Lk. 24:49), “He will convince the world of sin, and of justice, and of judgment” (vs. 8). The preaching and miracles of the Apostles, once filled with the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:4), will be a convincing argument that (vs. 9) it is very sinful not to believe in Christ (8:24); that (vs. 10), by His Ascension into heaven, He shows Himself not only not to be a sinner (9:24) but to be the beloved of the Father (3:35); that to reject Our Lord is to retain as one’s father the devil (8:44) who is already judged (vs. 11)—and so for oneself to be already judged with him (3:18). He will indeed glorify Christ (vs. 14; 15:26). There will be no subsequent “New Pentecost” that would supersede the work of Christ.
Our Lord is leaving them “for a little while” (vs. 16). This may refer to His death and burial until His resurrection (St. John Chrysostom) or from His Ascension to the day of judgment (St. Augustine). In both instances, they will “lament and weep, but the world shall rejoice” (vs. 20). Likewise, seeing Him risen or returning glorious to judge the living and the dead, will give them a joy no man can take from them (vs. 22). Their being left without Him is a cause of sorrow. However, not only is it just for a “little while” but also, already by faith in His victory, they can rejoice, they are to have peace in Him (vs. 33). “Have confidence, I have overcome the world.” They too, by their faith. “This is the victory which overcometh the world, our faith” (I Jn. 5:4).
Another source of confidence is the wonderful efficacy of prayer “in His name” (vs. 23-26). This is prayer relying on the merits of our Savior, and for things according to His will. “And this is the confidence which we have towards him: that, whatsoever we shall ask according to his will, he heareth us. And we know that he heareth us whatsoever we ask: we know that we have the petitions which we request of him” (I Jn. 5:14f). “Have confidence!” (vs. 33). And this is His last word to His disciples at the Last Supper.
1 E.g., Mt. 17:21f; 20:18f.
2 Mt. 10:17f & 28; 24:9; etc.
3 Lk. 4:34; 8:28.
4 Mt. 7:23; 25:12. Jn. 8:19.
5 “Who can forgive sins but God only?” (Mk. 2:7).
6 E.g., “Filled with the Holy Ghost” were, of course, Mary (Lk. 1:28 & 35); but also Elizabeth (Lk. 1:41), Zachary (Lk. 1:67), Simeon (Lk. 2:25). lt is the Holy Ghost Who “spoke through the prophets,” e.g. David (Acts 1:16 & 4:25), Isaias (Acts 28:25).