The Holy Spirit: The Paraclete par Excellence

Benny Nalkara CMI

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counsellor will not come to you” (Jn 16:7). This saying of Jesus found in the farewell section of John’s Gospel is often is a comforting as well as a confusing statement. In fact this statement is a pointer towards the fact that the departure of Jesus and the arrival of the Holy Spirit are closely interrelated events. The salvific work of God in the human history started in incarnation and carried out through the ministry, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus is not going to be ceased but to be continued through the presence of the Holy Spirit, the Father’s gift through the Son.

Jesus is presenting the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete. The word parakletosis used five times in John’s writings (Jn 14:16; 14:26; 15:26; 16:7; 1 Jn 2:1) always with reference to Jesus or the Holy Spirit. The Greeks used the word in a wide variety of ways. The word, parakletosis a verbal adjective, often used of one called to help in a lawcourt. In the Jewish tradition the word was transcribed with Hebrew letters and used for angels, prophets, and the just as advocates before God’s court. The word derives from the verb, parakaleō (combination of “para” (beside/alongside) and “kalein” (to call) which has a wide range of meanings that include, “to exhort and encourage,” “to comfort and console,” “to call upon for help,” “to appeal” etc. Thus the word parakletosis translated as “advocate,” “comforter,” “companion,” “counsellor,”  “helper,” “friend,” “intercessor,” “defender” etc. A parakletos might be a person called in to give witness in a law court in someone’s favour; he might be an advocate called in to plead the cause of someone under a charge which would issue in serious penalty; he might be an expert called in to give advice in some difficult situation; he might be a person called in when, for example, a company of soldiers were depressed and dispirited to put new courage into their minds and hearts. Generally today, the term Paraclete denotes helper and advocate. A helper who makes us brave in all life situations and an advocate who protects our rights always and everywhere.

When Jesus introduced the Holy Spirit as Paraclete what meaning was in His mind? Jesus used this all-inclusive term to denote the presence and activities of the Holy Spirit who was going to replace His presence amidst the believers and in the world. When Jesus said for if I do not go away, the Paraclete will not come to you,” what He meant was the continuation of His presence in this world through the person of the Holy Spirit. Just as the Son was someone who came into the world from the Father, the Holy Spirit is also someone who was going to come from the Father to be with the disciples as “another” Paraclete. Jesus uses the term Paraclete for the heavenly intercessor that is called to the side of the God’s children to offer strength and support. Jesus is a paraclete because He intercedes for all those who struggles on earth. The Holy Spirit is paraclete because He is sent to strengthen the disciples in Jesus’ absence, instruct then in the truth, and to defend them against the devil. Jesus and the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete are inseparably interconnected with one another, they come together to those who love, to those who mirror the divine communion in this human conditions.

Jesus has clearly spoken about the three functions of the Paraclete. He will convince the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment (Jn 16:8). The verb “elencho” can be translated as to convict, to warn, to reprove, to make ashamed etc. So the main function of the Paraclete is as the teacher and guide of our life. He will be acting in the realm of the consciousness of our intellect and will give us new realizations and convictions. It includes the awareness about our sinfulness, about the real Christian righteousness and about the divine way of seeing things.

In multifaceted ways the Holy Spirit functions as our Paraclete – helper and advocate-  in our day today life. He is our defender in our battle against the evil tendencies and powers. He is the helper in our prayers as we do not know how to pray (Rom 8:26). He is the Paraclete in our witnessing mission by providing us with grace and power. He helps us to be firm rooted in faith by giving us the understanding about the eternal truths and help us to see the fellow human beings and the nature with a Christic eye. He helps us to lead an authentic Christian life by igniting our hearts through His gifts and fruits. Being the Spirit of love and unity, He fills our hearts with genuine love and thus enable us to love the fellow brethren unconditionally and help us to reconcile with them wholeheartedly. Above all, it is the Paraclete who leads us in establishing our relationship with God as His children (Rom 8:14).

As the people who are privileged to be led by the Paraclete, are we able to feel His empowering and enkindling presence in our lives? The exaggerated claims of the gifts and the miracles are not the signs of the presence of the Paraclete in our lives. His presence must help us to give away the path of violence and hatred and embrace the way of love and forgiveness. The Paraclete par excellence should pave way for the life of justice, peace and joy of the Kingdom of God.

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