Acts 16:22-34; John 16:5-11
I tell you the sober truth: It is much better for you that I go. If I fail to go, the Paraclete will never come to you, whereas if I go, I will send him to you.
Lots of ink has been used to try to translate the Greek word, "Paraclete," which Jesus used to refer to the Spirit whom he would send to us. I like to reflect on his promise, by going to the root meaning of the word: para- + kalein. The verb kaleo is "to call." The prefix para adds the sense of "around, near, close by." The most basic meaning of the action described by putting para together with the verb "to call" is something like this: call together. And, so, the simplest sense of the translation of the word, as a proper name, might be, "the Gatherer."
I feel very consoled when I reflect on Jesus' promise that he would not just "leave" and be gone, would not leave us as "orphans." It is wonderful to think that his Spirit remains with us, as the Gatherer, the Unifier, the Reconciler.
I feel his own Peace when I think this way about discerning tough decisions. When we experience various movements, pulls, conflicting desires, it is often very helpful to ask, "which spirit does this or that movement come from?" Is its origin from the spirit of the One who Gathers, or from the spirit of the one who scatters? To experience the Spirit of Jesus as the Gatherer, helps us to see the "Enemy" as the Scatterer, the Divider, the one who brings division, un-reconcilable messes and destruction.
Who among us doesn't have a sense of this negative force that seems to mess up so many relationships, so many efforts at community, teamwork, and wonderful service? If I were the "Evil One," I'm sure that's what I'd try to do. Whenever two people try to love each other more, whenever a group would try to come together to do good, whenever a community tries to gather for something in response to God's Word, I'd try to mess it up. I'd try to "inspire" some kind of self-ish-ness. I'd work on inflaming some jealousy, some territoriality, some insecurity, some memory of past hurts. I'd probably try to make sure communication stays so sloppy that mis-understandings are left to fester, and new wounds keep getting inflicted. If I could get trust to break down, then listening usually ends, and then reconciliation isn't on anybody's mind any more. Nor is there much hope, joy, freedom or peace. I'd know my efforts had been successful when what everyone is feeling is some degree of anger and some desire to punish the other.
Isn't it consoling to reflect upon our faith that we are not alone with these devastating forces at work within us and around us? Jesus is with us as a Spirit hard at work to bring us together, to unite us, to reconcile conflict and division, and to offer us a peace the worldly processes cannot give. By cooperating with this Spirit, it is easier to forgive, to make one more effort at communicating, to see the good in the other that Jesus sees. In this Spirit, wounds can be healed. By moving with this movement, there is a new power, a new energy that brings a new vitality to our relationships, to our efforts at community, to our response to God's call in Jesus. With his Spirit, love drives out fear. Without anxiety, communication is easier and clearer, and it leads to genuine understanding. Confirmed by this Spirit, our hearts have a new courage, not only to overcome seemingly immovable obstacles, but to make heroic efforts at loving self-less-ly. Through, with and in this Gatherer, nothing is impossible. In this driving Wind, there is hope, there is joy, there is great peace.
Come, Holy Spirit,
Fill the Hearts of your Faithful.
Enkindle within us the Fire of your Love.
Send forth your Spirit, Lord,
And we shall be recreated,
And join you,
in renewing the face of the earth.
By Andy Alexander