In Saint John’s Gospel, Jesus referred to “another Advocate,” specifically the Holy Spirit, whom the Father has sent into the world to reinforce the deeds and words of Jesus. The Holy Spirit is the soul of Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church; He is the Church’s living memory, her source of both challenge and encouragement. Jesus curiously says, “The world cannot accept [the Spirit], because it neither sees nor knows him.” People who are not concerned with anything beyond the material, the scientifically verifiable, would have no part with the Holy Spirit. Their church is little more than a soulless zombie, or perhaps a blob that assumes the shape of its container.
The Spirit is the “Advocate” (in Greek, Paraclete): One who is literally called to a person’s side, like a defense attorney. Followers of Christ, sons and daughters of the Church, need this Advocate to help us become witnesses to our faith. Younger Catholics should remember the official definition of Confirmation that the Bishop asked them: “Confirmation is the sacrament in which the Holy Spirit comes to us in a special way to join us more closely to Jesus and His Church, and to seal and strengthen us as Christ’s witnesses.”
To riff upon our Bishop’s motto, the Spirit invests us with holiness (union with the Lord and others) and mission (service to the Lord and others); He delivers them in the form of His seven gifts, and we are known to have them in our exemplification of His twelve fruits. (Don’t know what the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit are? Look them up!)
If we’re baptized and confirmed Catholics, we ought to know and treasure who we are and what we believe, and we ought to be willing to stand up for it in the face of opposition. Last week our Commonwealth joined numerous other states in permitting same-sex marriages. This decision has been met at once with thunderous applause and thunderous outcry; but the most noteworthy response has been silence.
Most Catholics know, and some are, persons who experience attraction to the same sex. Few, I suspect, know the Church’s teachings enough to distinguish attraction from action (attraction of itself is not sinful, while action is); and fewer still are prepared to defend those teachings. They might consider the Church’s position a condemnation of our brothers and sisters—or of themselves—but fail to recognize the deepest truths at stake; or, however dimly they may recognize the truths, they are afraid to speak of them for fear of being considered a “hater,” “insensitive” and “unenlightened.” Understandably they may not want to be labeled a “hypocrite,” much less get roped in with a Church who has endured the same criticism, often justifiably. Or they may feel ill equipped against the prevailing arguments, with their appeals to “love,” “equality,” and the like.
In so many respects, as we get to know human beings and their stories, we find that we can no longer hide behind positions. We begin to love persons while not condoning their sinful actions. We are moved to look more squarely at our own lives, to notice where we also have some conversion and growth ahead of us. A comfortable Catholicism fails to satisfy, because a Fire has been lit beneath us!
We should be grateful for our Catholic faith, and we should be ready to offer people “a reason for the hope” within us; but only if we call upon our Advocate to help us affirm the truth clearly and lovingly. Having done our best with that, the results are not our business.