288. After the Coming Storm (John 16:1-15)

“It is better to be alone with God. His friendship will not fail me, nor his counsel, nor his love. In his strength, I will dare and dare and dare until I die.”  St. Joan of Arc

John 16:1-15: ‘I have told you all this that your faith may not be shaken. They will expel you from the synagogues, and indeed the hour is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is doing a holy duty for God. They will do these things because they have never known either the Father or myself. But I have told you all this, so that when the time for it comes you may remember that I told you, but now I am going to the one who sent me. Not one of you has asked, Where are you going? Yet you are sad at heart because I have told you this. Still, I must tell you the truth: it is for your own good that I am going because unless I go, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I do go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will show the world how wrong it was, about sin, and about who was in the right, and about judgment: about sin: proved by their refusal to believe in me; about who was in the right: proved by my going to the Father and your seeing me no more; about judgment: proved by the prince of this world being already condemned.

‘I still have many things to say to you but they would be too much for you now. But when the Spirit of truth comes he will lead you to the complete truth, since he will not be speaking as from himself but will say only what he has learnt; and he will tell you of the things to come. He will glorify me, since all he tells you will be taken from what is mine. Everything the Father has is mine; that is why I said: All he tells you will be taken from what is mine.’

Christ the Lord Jesus knows that his mission will not come to an end after he returns to the Father – rather, it will just be the beginning. He established his Kingdom through his life, Passion, death and Resurrection, and he will spend the rest of history expanding it. The instrument of that expansion will be his Church, guided “to all truth” by the Holy Spirit. Jesus did not leave us a book; he left us the living Church, animated by the Holy Spirit, indestructible, guaranteed to last until he comes again at the end of time. (The Church, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, subsequently put together the world’s best-selling book, the Bible.)

Christ is the only King whose Kingdom will have no end. Even now, through his Spirit he is here among us, guiding our hearts “to the complete truth.” If ever we get bored with the faith, we can be sure that the faith is not to blame – rather, we will have stopped listening to the words of our Lord.

TriniteGrandesHeuresAnneDeBretagne3TrinityChrist the Teacher  In words that can hardly sustain the meaning he hoists upon them, Jesus teaches us about the very structure of God. The Spirit can only speak what he hears from the Son, and everything the Son has he has received from the Father – each communicates the other. God is a total unity of persons, a community of love, of self-giving. Whatever one has, the others receive. There is no holding back, no hidden agendas, no manipulation – it’s absolute generosity and unlimited self-donation. And, just think, we are created in his image. We are meant to interact with one another with that same generosity. This was the new commandment that Christ gave us during the Last Supper, that we “love one another” as he has loved us, which means to love as the Father has loved him. We can’t grasp completely the mystery of the Trinity, but we can enter into it by loving, and loving is better than grasping anyway.

One of the Spirit’s first jobs will be to vindicate Jesus, who was about to be wrongly condemned to death. In so doing, the Spirit will reveal to the world, all throughout history, the truth about sin, justice (“who was in the right”), and judgment. Through the enlightenment that comes at Pentecost, all will recognize that Jesus was not the sinner his accusers claimed him to be; rather, their rejection of him will be shown up as the sin of disbelief. At the same time, it will become clear that all Jesus had said about himself and his mission was right, and the criticisms of his antagonists were wrong. Finally, in the epoch of the Church, what seemed like Christ’s defeat in the face of a false judgment will turn out to have been the definitive and lasting judgment that dethrones Satan – idolatry and demonic possession will roll back as the Church rolls forward.

In the light of the Holy Spirit, the truth about Jesus will shine without interruption, exposing evil and pushing back injustice in every generation and every nation. When we renew our faith in the truth of Jesus, we make that light shine brighter, and make reparation for those who still prefer the darkness.

Christ the Friend Jesus knows what we need, and he offers it to us – he is always thinking about what we need. He told his apostles just enough on that first Holy Thursday so that their faith would endure the coming storm – both the storm of his passion and that of the persecutions they would face afterwards. And although he still had “many things to say,” he knew that it “would be too much for them” then. And so he waited. How humble our God is to adjust himself to the paltry limitations of our fallen human nature! How glad we should be to have someone we can trust so completely! He is perfect wisdom, unlimited power, and undying love, and he puts himself at our service, paying attention to our needs just as a loving mother would. And what does he get out of it? Nothing but the joy of bringing us into his Kingdom – for some reason, he wants to enjoy our friendship from now through eternity, and he’s willing to be very patient in order to do so.

How different the world would be if every Christian followed our Lord’s example! Patience, kindness, determined love, and attention to the needs of those around us in all circumstances… a simple formula for a worldwide revolution, a moral coup d’état.

Christ in My Life I feel as if every sentence, every phrase you utter is overflowing with meaning that goes way beyond me. Your words are a waterfall of light, and they dazzle me. Dear Lord, take me by the hand and guide me. Every day, help me to understand just a little bit more about you and your Kingdom and how to follow you. This is all I desire, this is all I hope for. Teach me the way to go…

I want to lead those around me into the truth of your friendship, Lord, but how? You revealed yourself gradually to your disciples, before and after your Passion. You befriended them and lived with them. You spoke the truth, but above all you lived the truth. And you drew them closer and closer to you. Help me to do the same. Help me to love others with your love, so I will know exactly what to do…

Mary, you watched over the apostles, the fledgling Church, between Christ’s Ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit. You took care of the infant Church just as lovingly and energetically as you took care of the infant Jesus. I am still just a child, just a beginner in my journey of discipleship. Take care of me, too. My mind is so dark and weak and confused; my heart so scrawny. Mother, make me like Jesus…

PS: This is just one of 303 units of Fr. John’s fantastic book The Better Part. To learn more about The Better Part or to purchase in print, Kindle or iPhone editions, click here. Also, please help us get these resources to people who do not have the funds or ability to acquire them by clicking here.


Art: Cover of The Better Part used with permission. The Holy Trinity, miniature from the Grandes Heures [Great Hours] of Anne of Brittany, Queen consort of France (1477-1514). f. 155v. God the Father on left, Jesus on right, holding book with seven seals open to Alpha and Omega passage, dove of Holy Spirit in center, “animal” symbols of Four Evangelists in corners, Jean Bourdichon, 1503-1508, PD-US, Wikimedia Commons.

About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college, he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller, “Inside the Passion”–the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: “The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer”. His most recent books are “Spring Meditations”, “Seeking First the Kingdom: 30 Meditations on How to Love God with All Your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength”, and “Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions”. Fr. John currently splits his time between Michigan (where he continues his writing apostolate and serves as a confessor and spiritual director at the Queen of the Family Retreat Center) and Rome, where he teaches theology at Regina Apostolorum. His online, do-it-yourself retreats are available at RCSpirituality.org, and he answers questions about the spiritual life at SpiritualDirection.com.

This article is reprinted with permission from our friends at Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction.

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