“If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me. These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” John 14:15-26
The setting is this: We are still in the upper room, Judas has stepped into the darkened streets of Jerusalem and he is heading over to the Temple, Jesus has washed the disciples feet and instituted the Blessed Sacrament. He is now focusing mainly on the fact that he is leaving the disciples and returning to his Father and the way of his departure is the Cross. Jesus has already reminded his disciples that he is the only begotten Son of the Father and so much is he the perfect image of his Father it is accurate to say if you have seen Jesus you have seen the Father. He has one way or the other said this or the equivalent over and over again and the Beloved Disciple has made it clear to us in the Prologue of the Gospel that Jesus is the eternally begotten Word of the Father — true God from the true God who is God. Jesus and God the Father are of the same nature, the same substance which is divinity, but not the same Person.
He has also once again drawn attention to the relation of being in another person and how that is in some overarching sense the way of all reality and being. Everything that matters, matters by virtue of indwelling. The Son is in the Father and proceeds from the Father. The Father is in the Son and thus the Son bears the Perfect Image of the Father who has given all things to him. This squares exactly with what St. Paul wrote to the Colossians:
“Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell…” Colossians 1:15-19
As an aside permit me to ask “How is it that St. Paul knows this truth of Jesus’ nature that so perfectly corresponds to the Gospel of John?” The reason I ask that question is because you certainly do not find this painstakingly detailed Christology in the Synoptics. The way St. Paul knows this is the same way all other Christians knew it at the time of his conversion and ministry, he was taught this by the Apostles of the Jerusalem Church and specifically first of all by Ananias of Damascus, the later by Peter, and but especially Barnabas of Jerusalem. The point I am making is this: even though the Gospel of John may have been the last Gospel composed (maybe), the narrative of the Gospel of John is the oldest, the original narrative of the Jerusalem Church — all other New Testament writings, the epistles of St. Paul, the general epistles, the Revelation, and the Synoptic Gospels all presume the priority of the narrative of John’s Gospel.
Now back to the upper room. As I have said several times Jesus’ primary concern at this point in the upper room is prepare his disciples for his crucifixion, his resurrection, and his eventual ascension back to the Father, as well as to prepare them for the gift of the Holy Spirit. That will take up chapters 14, 15, 16, and 17. The Holy Spirit was first mentioned by John the Baptist back in chapter 1 when he said that when he baptized Jesus he saw the Spirit ascend from heaven and light upon Jesus. “This one,” the Father told John, “will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is mentioned here and there in the Gospel, but now, in the upper room, Jesus reveals the mission of the Holy Spirit to the fledging Church:
“If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”
As Jesus’ earthly mission is drawing to its perfect finality, he introduces the mission of the Holy Spirit to his disciples which is also to introduced the mission of the Church. Love is the priority, love of Jesus and love of one another, and love is the commandment that Jesus has placed unmistakably in the foreground of his doctrine and work. To love Jesus is to keep his commandments, the chief one being to love one another as he has loved each one of them.
The verses, “If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter…” do not mean that Jesus’ prayer is contingent on our obedience to love one another. In fact the reason his commandment to love him and to love one another is to be taken seriously is because he has prayed the Father to send to us the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, who enables us to actually obey his commandments. The Father does not wait for our response before he answer the prayers of the Son.
Furthermore, the Comforter will not be coming and going but rather once he descends he will be with the Church to the very end of the world. The Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, is not alien to the Church, not incompatible with the Church, not unfamiliar because the Comforter is already known and already dwelling with the Jesus and his disciples. Jesus further said concerning the Holy Spirit and the Church: “but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” But the promise that Jesus makes is that the Holy Spirit will soon indwell his disciples. That indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, will accentuate the radical separation between the World and the Church because the World is under the rule of what John calls “the Spirit of deceit.” The World cannot grasp, recognize, nor receive the Holy Spirit. Therefore there will be inescapable discord between the Church and the World. Jesus will expand upon this theme in the chapter 15.
Also please note that our Lord refers to each Person of the Blessed Trinity in this passage and the disciples do not seem confused by his reference to the Father and to the Holy Spirit. Nor are they confused by Jesus’ obvious assumption of union, of the indwelling, of the Three Persons. And also note that it is not Jesus who is sending the Holy Spirit, but the Father. Furthermore it is crystal clear that Jesus sees the Father as the source of all life and all truth both for himself and for the Holy Spirit. “He who has seen me has seen the Father,” Jesus explains means that his doctrine, his deeds, his wonders, and his words have their source in the Father. He is begotten from the Father’s heart of hearts and come into the World with a mission from the Father. The Son is true God from true God but it is not his to send the Holy Spirit who is also true God from true God to be sent from the Father. It is the Father’s office to send, to beget, to love, to give gifts and to save. So the Son prays the Father to send his Holy Spirit to comfort the fledging Church. Remember also that the word comfort as in Comforter does not mean to merely to sympathize, or to console, or to soothe. The word Comforter in fact means very nearly the opposite of to soothe or to solace. Comforter is made from two Latin words that put together mean to infuse with courage or bravery, to impart fortitude. Fortitude is a natural virtue, one of the cardinal virtues, but it is a virtue that needs direction in order for it to be properly exercised. The Holy Spirit when he indwells the disciples will enable them to properly exercise fortitude and when the assaults of the enemy come they will not run from the battle. It would be far better to fall in the battle than to run from the enemy. There are things worse than dying. Cowardice, betraying Christ our God is the worse of all sins — it is the sin of Judas and ultimately the sin of Satan.
“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”
The mission of the Holy Spirit is entirely different from the Son’s mission because it is his mission to point to Jesus, to instruct the Church as it goes into the world to fulfill its mission. Specifically the Holy Spirit will be bring back to their individual and collective memory the things that Jesus did and said. Like for example the detailed teaching and actions of the Jesus in the Fourth Gospel. “How,” we may ask, “could John and the other Apostles recall with confidence words and deeds of Jesus.” And the answer is that the Church corporately and individually has the of the Holy Spirit, or we may say the authors were “inspired by the Holy Spirit” as they, and in this case John, wrote down the narrative from memory. Of course the belief that the Holy Spirit actually brought back to the Apostles’ members all that Jesus taught is not going to convince unbelievers, but it is not meant to convince unbelievers. The sending of the Holy Spirit is the Father’s pledge to those who love Jesus that their may confidently trust in the Apostolic memory and narrative given to us in the Fourth Gospel.