The Last Supper discourses are teachings from the Lord which are multi-layered in meaning. There is the teaching on humble service to begin with; there’s the ‘new commandment’ of love; there’s the allegory of the Vine and the branches, a symbol of the union between disciple and Master.
But one of the richest passages deals with the Holy Spirit, Jesus’s own spirit of love, the bond between him and his Father, which is also the bond between him and his disciples. The name Jesus gives to his Spirit is ‘Paraclete’, a word which best translates as ‘advocate’, one who pleads on another’s behalf. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us with God our Father. The Holy Spirit also judges the world, that is, all those who have refused to believe in Jesus.
The mood at table during that paschal meal, the Last Supper, is somber. Jesus has first announced that one of those belonging to the group will betray him. He then goes on to say that he, Jesus, will soon be leaving them. The disciples are so upset that no one has even the courage to ask, where are you going? Why can’t we go with you?
It is then that Jesus introduces the advocate: “If I do not go, your advocate will not come; but if I go, I will send him to you.”
The life of Jesus comes to an end with his passion and death. But the very death of Jesus is the beginning of the new life of the Church, the reign of the Spirit. It is this Spirit, the Paraclete, who will guide the disciples, even as Jesus once did. “He will confute the world,” says Jesus, “and show where wrong and right and judgment lie. He will convince them that right is on my side, by showing that I go to the Father when I pass from your sight…” The disciples were dismayed because they realized that Jesus would not longer be with them. That is not entirely true. Jesus would continue to be with them, but differently. He would be present forever in the Church through his Spirit, the Advocate, who guides the Church, defends it against the powers of evil, intercedes for it with his Father, comforts and strengthens it in times of trial. This is why whenever we pray, we end by saying, “…through Jesus Christ in the unity of the Holy Spirit.”
The Holy Spirit, the Advocate, is God present among us today.