The Spirit bears witness

The Spirit bears witness

Seventh Sunday of Easter. Fr Simon Gaine preaches on Christ’s prayer for the Spirit.

It is a remarkable thing that Jesus prayed. He who was God prayed. God prayed in his human nature, God the Son making intercession to God the Father.

And the answer to his prayer was remarkable too. God himself, God the Holy Spirit, was sent down on those for whom our Lord made his prayer.

In today’s Gospel Jesus asks that the Father will preserve those the Father has given him. He prays that the Father will protect them from the evil one. He asks that the Father will consecrate them in the truth. All this the Father will do by sending down the Holy Spirit at his Son’s request.

In another place Jesus says,

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

That is in Matthew’s Gospel. In Luke Jesus says same the same thing, but in a slightly different way:

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

Instead of ‘good things’, Luke has the Holy Spirit. The meaning is clear. The Holy Spirit is our Good and contains in himself all good gifts. He then is the deepest answer to all our prayers in this life.

At his Ascension, our Lord passed into heaven to make intercession for us to the Father. The disciples returned to Jerusalem from Mount Olivet and devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women, our Lady and the Lord’s brethren, as they awaited the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost.

Today’s first reading tells a story from this time of waiting. Peter announced how the Holy Spirit had foretold Jesus’ betrayal by Judas, and had decreed that another should take his office. The 120 first disciples had only eleven leaders with oversight over them, and that number needed to be made up to twelve.

But even more important than the oversight exercised by the apostles was their witness to the resurrection of Christ. Having selected two candidates who had accompanied them from the time of John the Baptist onwards, they prayed that God would show which of them he had selected for this ministry and apostleship of witness. Matthias was selected by lot, and he was enrolled along with the other apostles as the official witnesses to the resurrection.

Although the prayers of the disciples were answered that day by the good gift of St Matthias, their prayers were answered in another way when the Day of Pentecost finally came. When the Spirit descended, it was as a greater Witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the renewal of the people of God.

It was the Spirit who then bore witness through signs and wonders in the Church. It was the Spirit who inspired the brave words, deeds and witness of the apostles. And it was he who spoke to believers deep within their hearts.

The Spirit bears witness deep within us that we are God’s children when he makes us call out to God the Father. He inspires within us the prayer of Christ himself, and we share in calling down the Gift of God on one another. He is God’s gift to us and even our gift to one another in Christ.

In today’s second reading, St John tells us no one has ever seen God. But if we love one another, God will live in us and his love will come to perfection in us. But we can only know that this love dwells within us, because the Holy Spirit has been given to us, the witness that our lives are lived for God.

But the Spirit bears witness not only to what we are, but also to what we shall be. No one has ever seen God, but that shall not be true for ever. Even now the Spirit dwells within us as a witness that we shall see God, as a pledge that we shall share the life of heaven, where the risen Christ has already gone ahead to prepare a place for us too.

Readings: Acts 1:15-17,20-26 | 1 John 4:11-16 | John 17:11-19

fr Simon Francis Gaine, former Regent of Studies of the English Province, holds the Servais Pinckaers Chair in Theological Anthropology and Ethics at the Angelicum University in Rome. He is the author of several books including 'Did the Saviour See the Father?' published by Bloomsbury in 2015.