The Spirit of Truth and the Whole Truth

Light of truth

Benny Nalkara, CMI

The Church is the community of the disciples of Jesus who believe in him and proclaim him as the Lord. Jesus during his earthly ministry taught and trained his followers to continue his mission on the earth and asked them to be his witnesses “to the ends of the earth” (Acts1:8). In fact, the Church is the actualization of the kingdom of God on earth, envisaged by Jesus. Jesus who revealed Himself as “the truth” (Jn 14:6), emphasized his mission from the Father as “to witness to the truth” in the world. What is revealed in Him is “all the truth” or “the whole truth” (tē alētheia pāse)” (cf. Jn 1:14-16) of everything which was created in Him and through Him and which therefore in Him finds its fulfillment (cf. Col 1:17). Even when Jesus departs, the ministry of truth will continue because the Comforter, who is the Spirit of truth (Jn 14:17 ), will be active both in the Church as well as in the world.

In his final exhortation to the disciples of Jesus He promised that “when the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth” (alētheia pāsa) (Jn 16:13). The term, “the Spirit of truth” is used in a personal sense in the Gospel, (Jn 14:17; 15:26; 16:13) denoting the “advocate” who will teach the realities of the new order and testify to the truth. The Holy Spirit is presented as an “advocate” (parakletos) in John’s Gospel. This is a legal term for an attorney or spokesperson who defends the cause of an accused in a courtroom. The Spirit of truth is a Paraclete because He instructs the disciples in truth (Jn 14:26; 15:26), and defends them against the persecutions. At Qumran this term is used with a moral force, as opposed to the force of perversity.

The expression, “whole truth” or “all the truth,” refers to the act of the Holy Spirit leading us to the fullness of truth, Jesus Christ. This does not mean that what is revealed in Jesus Christ is incomplete or the Holy Spirit will teach something different from what Jesus taught. On the other hand the disciples who were unable to comprehend in fullness what Jesus had taught them will be led to the full understanding by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth. In fact it is the Holy Spirit who fills us with the knowledge of Jesus and His mission.

Truth is not a collection of many truths, it is something whole and ultimately it is identified with God. The whole truth is not with us, it is with God and we all are marching towards that truth, seeking and finding, but always aware of the fact that we see it as in a mirror, dimly, and knowing only in part (1 Cor 13:12). The Holy Spirit guides us “into all the truth” (Jn 16:13); not only does He guide us to the encounter with Jesus, the fullness of the truth, but He also guides us “into” the truth, that is, He makes us enter into an ever deeper communion with Jesus, giving us knowledge of “whole truth” (alētheia pāsa) of God. The major task of the Holy Spirit highlighted by Jesus,-convincing the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment (Jn 16:8)– is culminated and completed in leading the world into the whole truth.

The truth is not grasped as a thing, the truth is encountered. It is an encounter with the person of Jesus Christ. The Spirit of truth enlightens us to understand and bear witness to the truth according to the mind of Christ. The Holy Spirit acts in our lives and in the life of the Church in order to guide us to the full or whole truth. First of all, He recalls and impresses in the heart of believers the words Jesus spoke and, through these very words, the law of God is engraved in our heart and becomes within us a criterion for evaluation in decisions and for guidance in our daily actions. In that way the Spirit becomes a principle to live by. The Spirit of Truth assists everyone in understanding the words of Christ and in following Him with faith and truth.

As disciples of Jesus, who is the Truth, the search for the truth is our fundamental human vocation. Whatever our views, whatever our convictions, whatever our faiths, they are valid only as expressions of truth. We are living in an age in which people are rather sceptical of truth. Sometimes we are condemned to believe the half-truths. The lie or falsehood is often beautified and presented as the truth. Relativism, that is, the tendency to consider nothing definitive and to think that truth comes from consensus or from something we like, is prevailing in the world around us. For the correct discernment as disciples we need the help of the Spirit of Truth, who is beside us to sustain us on this journey towards the whole truth.

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