What we have in our Gospel reading today, and also in our Gospel reading last Sunday, from the 16th chapter of St. John, are Jesus’ words to his disciples as he prepares to depart from them. This section of John’s Gospel is called the Farewell Discourses, because in them Jesus is preparing his disciples for his upcoming crucifixion and death, when he will be taken away from them.
The focus of Jesus’ teaching here in this 16th chapter is the Comforter, the Helper, the Counselor—in other words, the Holy Spirit. We need to remember that the Holy Spirit is not some abstract, remote “force field” or power but a Person—the third Person of the Holy Trinity. And the Holy Spirit lives within Christian believers in a real and dynamic way. The Holy Spirit actually lives within all living things since he is “the Lord and Giver of life,” as we say in the Creed. But the Holy Spirit lives within Christian believers as the active power and presence of the living God.
In our Gospel reading, Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Spirit of truth. “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come” (John 16:12-13). Notice what Jesus says here: the Holy Spirit “will guide you into all the truth.” Jesus does NOT say, “the Holy Spirit will reveal new truths to you.” In other words, the Holy Spirit will direct and guide us into a better understanding of the whole truth that has already been set forth concretely and concisely by Jesus, the Son of God. The Holy Spirit will direct and guide us into a better understanding of the whole truth that has been written down for us in the words of Holy Scripture.
We must never be fooled into thinking that the Holy Spirit is leading us or the Church into completely new truths. We often hear this today from people who want to make changes to what the Church or the Bible has always taught. We need to beware of this error. The Holy Spirit will never contradict Jesus or the Bible. He is the Spirit of truth and will also lead the disciples of Jesus into all truth—or, as another translation has it, into the fullness of the truth. And so let’s continue daily to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the truth that God has revealed in Christ in the Holy Scriptures.