Would you like an advocate? Today we hear Jesus promise an advocate to his followers (John 14.15-21). The word advocate today has legal connotations, but it is also used for those who speak up for others. We speak of advocacy as helping those who cannot speak for themselves. Most of us have had a feeling of inarticulacy at some time or another. We have wanted to speak up for ourselves, and have found that the right words just don’t come. An advocate who would step forward and make a case on our behalf sounds like a good idea!
We can think of the Holy Spirit as our Advocate in three ways.
First of all, we need someone to plead for the weak and vulnerable. We need the Spirit of God to stir up defenders of the weak and vulnerable. I think of life in the womb, I think of the poor who cannot find the words to defend themselves to officialdom, I think of the disabled asking for a fair chance. There are many people longing for a place at the table of life. The Holy Spirit is their advocate, moving the hearts and tongues of men and women to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.
Second, we need an advocate who will defend us in the great assize. This is not an argument about our merits. Any presentation of our case along those lines would be bound to fail. No, when pleading for us, the Holy Spirit presents the same case always: the love of Christ for us as shown in his life, death and resurrection. In fact, the Holy Spirit is the love of Christ that joins the Son with the Father. We are caught up in that love. As we hear Jesus say in the gospel today, ‘You will understand that I am in my Father and you in me and I in you’ (John 14.20).
Third, the Spirit is also our advocate before the world. We live in a difficult time for the Church. Its frailties are always on public view. What can we say when asked why we believe in Christ, or why we belong to the Church? At such challenging moments we have to trust in the presence of God within us. The Spirit, the advocate, will be stirred up within us as we make our reply. This does not mean that we will be given powerful words. It does not require flashy presentations. It means, simply, that we will have the inspiration of grace within us to help us as we speak. Honest words spoken hesitantly by a man or woman of faith can often have greater impact than the grandest words spoken by clergy.
People are more likely to find it genuine if you speak from the heart, about what your faith means, about who Christ is for you, and why the Catholic faith is something that sustains you. As we hear today from the First Letter of Peter, ‘always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for your hope’. Immediately the letter writer adds: ‘But give it with courtesy and respect’ (3.15-16). In this age of spin, many people are sceptical about smooth presentations and glib arguments. Speak from the heart. Trust the moment. Trust the advocate, the Holy Spirit, for he will speak through you and for you.