In frequent conversations with his disciples, Jesus often spoke about the relationship between himself and his Father. In today’s Gospel (John 14:23-29) Jesus speaks not only about his relationship with his Father, but also about the coming of the Holy Spirit. In other words, “…the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name…” This is most certainly a trinitarian reference.
However, it raises the question, “Who/what is the Holy Spirit?” John’s Gospel was written in Greek, so the word for “spirit” is pneuma, which means “breath.” The Old Testament equivalent for “breath, wind” is ruach. A classic example of the real meaning of ruah besides “breath, wind” is “power.”
The citation is from the early Genesis account of creation. “…the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind (ruah) from God swept over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:2) And creation took place. What came from God was “power” that brought things into being.
Interestingly enough, there was a strong belief, at the time of Jesus, that professional healers often breathed on the sick individual with the understanding that “wellness” was transferred through the health of the healer to the sick individual through the process of breathing.
The task of the Spirit (power of God) was to teach disciples the message of Jesus, which they were primarily to do by example. Jesus promoted justice, was compassionate, forgave others and was very understanding. The Pentecost experience was the proving point. And how was this teaching to be done? Through belief in strength and encouragement coming from the Spirit.
What can we learn from today’s Gospel? Most importantly, that we all receive the Holy Spirit through the sacrament of Baptism. Then through our belief in the strength and encouragement coming from the Spirit, which is actually the ruah (power) of God. And with that encouragement and strength we are able to give good example to others in what we say and do.
The fact is that we become believable because we believe in what we do. And that is that we can teach others by means of our example, because we have received the spirit (power) of God at Baptism. With that in mind, supported by strength and encouragement, we can actually say… that’s the “Spirit” in action.