The Real Counselor
By Deacon John Hackett
You hear the word “counselor” a lot these days. We are all acquainted with counselors and counseling. Me and Bridgette are both especially familiar with that word since we both have Master’s Degrees in Counseling. And the position of “counselor” is a very familiar occupation in our society. In the yellow pages of a telephone book, you can find marriage counselors, wedding counselors, guidance counselors, drug counselors, sex counselors, school counselors, vocational counselors and rehabilitation counselors… to name but a few. And I had heard that in an online newspaper the other day, there was an ad for a car counselor. So they are now everywhere in our society. And interestingly to be in a counseling session is almost a sign of prestige these days, whereas not to many years ago it was considered a stigma.
At any rate, our gospel reading for today from the 14th chapter of John is the high water mark in the Bible about counselors. And not just “any old counselor”… here we are talking about the real counselor… the Holy Spirit. And within this chapte from John, and in the two following chapters the Holy Spirit is named “counselor” five times. He is the Counselor to guide us into truth about ourselves, God, and life.
So, today, I pose the question: What does it mean that God, the H.S. is a counselor, and more specifically…your counselor?
The Greek word for counselor is “paraclete,” which means “called to the side of.”…you call someone to be by your side and give you strength. For example, when there is a sudden tragedy in your life, the natural instinct is not to be left alone, but to have someone there with you, someone by your side, to give you strength. Or when you face a momentous decision, you often don’t want to think it through alone. You want input from other people as you intelligently go about making this decision. So you will call someone to be by your side, to talk through the options. That is what the word “counselor” means: to call someone to be at your side, to give you strength and help as you sort out your decisions.
So… when we think of the Spirit of God, the H.S., as counselor, this means that the Holy Spirit is personally concerned about us. God, our counselor, is not a detached listener who listens politely to us for fifty minutes, asks for payment and then wants us to leave so the next customer can get in. If the mark of a good counselor is that he/she is personally concerned about our welfare and well being, then God the H.S. is truly a good counselor. God is truly concerned about what is good for us.
And God, the Holy Spirit, is an empathetic counselor. God intuitively understands the complexity of our inner being. Recently I read of a pastor who every morning recited his mantra of Psalm 139 that tells of God’s intuitive love for us, It reads: “O God, you have examined me and know you. You know all about me. From far away, you understand all my thoughts. You see me whether I am working or resting. Your knowledge of me is too wonderful and I cannot comprehend it.” Instantly, instinctively, intuitively, God understands every corner of my life and yours.
The Holy Spirit is also a non-judgmental counselor. He does not judge us for what we say, think or feel. Can you imagine God hearing every word we ever said; listening in on our every thought; seeing our every action? It is embarrassing to think that someone knows that much about us, seeing and hearing our every thought. And God still does not condemn us. Nor does God condone our thoughts and feelings and actions. And God does not condemn us in our humanness, and therefore we are free to tell God more.
The purpose of this Spirit/Counselor is to help us grow towards maturity and wholeness….the H.S. as counselor is a facilitator of growth and maturity within us. But we all have these blocks that prevent growth. Blocks of sin and imperfection. These qualities block us from becoming what God wants us to be. We have blocks due to the inner scars of childhood conflicts. Blocks due to our birth order. Blocks due to deeply ingrained personality habits. Blocks due to addictions. Blocks due to bad decisions and choices we have made. We all have these blocks within us. … What are those blocks in your inner life? What are those qualities which are preventing you from growing into maturity and wholeness? … God, the Holy Spirit, helps us see the truth about ourselves, and the blocks that inhibit our growth. God guides us into new directions and ways of dealing with our inner blocks.
Now..it must be said…Some people have the illusion that God, the Holy Spirit, the Counselor, will solve all our problems. That is not true. Like any good counselor, the Spirit enables us to become stronger. Nor does the Spirit/Counselor make decisions for you. Sometimes, that is just what we want; we want God to make the decisions for us, especially difficult decisions. Rather, God, the H.S. is the “paraclete,” who comes to our side and gives us the strength and new resources and new insights, so wecan make the difficult and painful choices and decisions
In ending let me quote a couple of people who were asked what the H.S. means to them, and after each quote I will add a little commentary. The first person says: “It means to me that God can handle it when I get off on a rage towards God or someone else, when I blow my stack, blow off my steam of anger at God and tell him he is doing a rotten job of managing the world and my life.” I say no problem there! God understands our need to honestly ventilate our feelings, to get it off our chest, to release the venom and black poison that we feel in our guts. God can handle that. In the Bible, these confessions are called laments. If you have ever read the book of Jeremiah in the Bible you will note that he especially really let God have it sometimes..
Ok, Person number 2: “I can hear God’s still small voice inside of me. Maybe it is my conscience, telling me right and wrong, but I do hear that one small voice inside of me, although the voice is not audible.” OK…Absolutely true. If you will remember, our text for today is clear: God, the Holy Spirit, the Counselor is going to come and live inside of us, in our minds, in our souls, inside the deepest most personal part of us.
In ending, as a personal testimony, several years ago I became interested about just how the H.S. could actually live inside of me. So I prayed to the H.S. for some enlightenment about this, asking: How can that be? I can’t feel you. I can’t see you. The answer came immediately and plain as day. He said to me: You can’t see your heart, your kidneys, your liver, and so on..all inside of you…right? But even though you can’t see me either, I am still there, working for you, right inside of you. Well, that did it for me! And so it is! He lives right inside of us, (you and me). And we can hear his voice counseling and guiding us in the way of truth in all the days, situations & circumstances of our lives.
By Deacon Don Griffith
We hear today in the Acts of the Apostles of the Birth of the Church. Prepared for by Christ in His doctrine that He taught, calling together those who would follow Him, establishing the college of the Apostles and the primacy of Peter among them, instituting the priesthood and entrusting the memorial of His Paschal Mystery to them as also the other sacraments. This had been building and building that what had been foretold by the prophets and explicitly promised by Christ the Lord is now fulfilled—the sending of the Holy Spirit upon those who believed in Jesus. On the day of the Church’s birth, the Holy Trinity is fully revealed. From what was written in the Scriptures, from what Christ says about the Spirit, and the what was observed. It had to be God, nothing else- no other power. Only the power of God could take someone chained down by fear of death who denied Jesus during His passion, who ran away from His crucifixion could bring St. Peter and the others to preach so boldly as soon as the Spirit came upon those 120 gathered. From the very beginnings of the Church, we see that God intends for this gathering of people to be catholic, to be universal—the Church didn’t so much come be universal, to speak other languages by spreading out to them, but from the very beginning the one Lord, established His one Church, to profess the one faith to all people throughout the world.
(CCC 743) From the beginning to the end of time, whenever God sends his Son, he always sends his Spirit: their mission is conjoined and inseparable. In the fullness of time, by the Holy Spirit, the Word took on flesh. The catechism lists 4 reasons for the Incarnation:
- to save us by reconciling us with God
- that we might know God’s love
- to be our model of holiness
- to make us “partakers of the divine nature” (CCC 457ff).
(CCC 737) The mission of Christ and the Holy Spirit is brought to completion in the Church, which brings Christ’s faithful to share in His communion with the Father in the Holy Spirit. (CCC 738) Thus the Church’s mission is not an addition to that of Christ and the Holy Spirit, but is its sacrament: in her whole being and in all her members, the Church is sent to announce, bear witness, make present, and spread the mystery of the communion of the Holy Trinity. And here it is important to continually strive to live sacramentally. A life of participation in the sacraments—especially reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist, but also a sacramental life in the broad sense of the word sacrament-to be a sign that belief in Christ and living from the grace of the Spirit makes a difference in our life and thereby in the world- to be a sinner yet strive to put away that sin with the help of grace. Not too very long after this event, those who professed faith in Jesus were persecuted. In different parts of the world today, there are those whose faith in the Risen Lord cost them their lives. For most of us in this country, our persecution looks different. That which Americans hold dear—freedom—that is the avenue by which our persecution will come. We see this already by those who label the Truths of the faith and of the human person which are taught by Christ’s Holy Church as discriminatory and hate-speech. And not only this, but also the witness of the Church has been diminished by the clergy scandals; tremendous harm has been done to God’s people. A persecution, of sorts, from within the Church. But we know that the fire of the Holy Spirit can purify; that the grace that was present on that first Pentecost which brought the Church thorough persecution and spread the Her throughout the world is still present to us today. Christ Himself fulfills his promises in us-He pours out His Spirit upon us, so long as we keep His commands, and that, by loving Him with the same love with which he has loved us, we may perform works in keeping with our dignity. For we have received a Spirit of Adoption and if the Spirit dwells in you—and me, then we can lead a life “worthy of the gospel of Christ” for we have been made capable of doing so by the grace of Christ and the gifts of his Spirit, which we receive through the sacraments and through prayer. fff