Trinity Year C
The Most Holy Trinity
A Hebrew Catholic Perspective
St. John 16: 12 to 15.
We have all heard critics of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity assert triumphantly that nowhere in the Bible is there any mention of it, let alone any definition. The joy in canvassing our reading — short as it is — lies not in obscure definitions and theological formulars. Instead the Church chooses to highlight, in this beautiful passage from St. John, a picture of the Holy Trinity in action, presented by our Lord Himself.
Reflections on Our Text
“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.”
As the Apostles had already come to realise, spiritual knowledge is not something you just choose to accumulate and use when it suits you. It is knowledge centred on Him and it is built up over a period of time as one engages with the Lord and listens to Him. It is knowledge related to experience with Him. Thus, in our text, the Apostles are unable to take everything possible into memory. Jesus says in effect, “….. it would be too much for you to bear.”
As a good rabbi (teacher) He knows when His “students” are ready for more information, and when they need to be more gently coaxed. There are some hefty trials ahead and for now His small band of loyal companions need to be given their final preparation.
“But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming.”
Who is this “Spirit of truth”? What does it mean?
The phrase “Spirit of Truth” can be expressed in several different forms:—
- the Spirit who shows what is true about God;
- the Spirit who speaks the true words about God;
- the Spirit who will reveal what God truly is.
What exactly does our Lord mean, “he will guide you to all truth”? This is a very special intimation from our Lord to His closest companions. It echoes some highly descriptive language from the Psalms, which all present knew well. Let’s look at where Jesus took this word from — and it will help us appreciate the depth of His comforting statement.
- “Guide me in your justice, because of my foes; make straight your way before me.” (Psalm 5: 9)
- “Lord show me your way; lead me on a level path. (Psalm 27:11)
- “He roared at the Red Sea and it dried up. He led them through the deep as through a desert.” (Psalm 106: 9)
- “Lead me in the path of your commands, for that is my delight.” (Psalm 119: 35)
St. John, writing later in the Book of Revelation, reflected the same power of the word:
- “For the Lamb who is in the centre of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water.” (Revelation 7: 17)
Our Lord’s choice of language indicates that though He is going to the Father, and they will no longer see Him (Verse 16: 10) through the Holy Spirit. He will continue to guide, to lead and to shepherd. They will not be without His presence. Going even further, Jesus explains that they will be partners in His continuing work, and He will confide in them through the Holy Spirit. In fact they will share the same knowledge and understanding, as family members.
The Apostles are given the perfect model to follow. Talking of the Holy Spirit, our Lord says:
“He will not speak on his own, but will speak what he hears, and will declare to you things that are coming.”
So the Holy Spirit Himself listens and imparts understanding; not only of present events, but concerning the whole unfolding of God’s plan of salvation for all the world.
Constantly, there is a reference to being given knowledge and understanding of the Father’s will. Everything revolves around this. We will have often experienced people talking about the Holy Spirit and what they think He does for them — but it is rather less often that people link the gift of the Spirit and the obedience by which we are meant to respond!
Thus we need to keep in mind that the Holy Spirit will teach — but He will also guide, lead and shepherd. It is this combination of roles which should give us confidence. The Perfect Listener will Himself guide us into possession of the level of knowledge and understanding each of us needs. If we follow His model we too will listen to the Word Himself and grow in confidence in our understanding and thus be less inclined towards error and distortion — less likely to deviate from the path.
“He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.”
Here Jesus is emphasising that in carrying out this guiding and teaching, the Holy Spirit will, in fact, honour our Lord — He will show them Christ’s glory; He will fold back the veil and let the Apostles see the true glory of Jesus.
Our Lord is very emphatic. The Apostles will not receive some “carbon-copy” of what He wishes them to know and understand. They will receive the “real thing”; first hand!
“Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.”
Again our Lord is emphatic. The Holy Spirit will declare everything because the Apostles are to be empowered to continue the mission of Jesus Messiah until it has been completed. They are to hold the position of closest confidant — “no holds barred”. The communication from the Lord to His Apostles — and indeed even to His future disciples — is to be rendered permanently open and clear so long as they remain fully united to Him through His Body, the Church: a unity He has already alluded to minutes earlier in His discussion of the vine and branches, (Chapter 15).
The passage from St. John’s Gospel which we have just read and pondered gives us a beautiful image of the Holy Trinity “at work” — an image which included the Apostles. The Church learned very early that the Lord was speaking not just to His Apostles, but also to His disciples down through the ages.
The message is loud and clear: we are to listen, as St. Benedict said, with the ears of the heart — and to carry out God’s Holy Will enshrined in the Sacred Scriptures. When we humbly pursue this course, the Holy Spirit will accompany us and “guide us into all truth”. Our time of Lectio Divina becomes all the more precious to us when we realise just how closely this brings us into the inner workings of the Blessed Trinity and the sense of belonging and loving union conferred upon us.
“Remember Your Creator”
(Eccl. 12: 1)
Let us remember God’s Teaching (Torah) contained in His Word and in doing so, remain close to Him. [The following are only examples illustrating how you can note the gems the Holy Spirit highlights for your on-going reflection.]
1. In the normal course of events the Holy Spirit does not use short-cuts to impart knowledge and understanding. These come as a result of assiduous study, reflection, prayer and meditation according to one’s ability and circumstances.
2. Our Lord teaches that the Holy Spirit will guide, lead and shepherd us on His behalf. However He insists that we should seek to know the Father’s Will, and earnestly try to carry it out.
3. The members of Christ’s Body, the Church, will have the opportunity to share with the Holy Trinity, in the treasures of the Divine Word: for all eternity.
New American Bible
John 16: 12 — 15
12 “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.
13 But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming.
14 He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.
15 Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.”
Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition (c) 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.