All we hear about these days in the Gospels is that Jesus is going bye-bye and that you are sending us this thing called the “Advocate.” In the 17th chapter of the Gospel of John’s, it’s more of the same:
Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you, just as you gave him authority over all people, so that your son may give eternal life to all you gave him. Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.
As I said last week, I believe your Advocate shows up in the intimate friendships that lead us closer to the truth, and protect us from the self-destructing behavior that is almost instinctual for those of us with creative brain wiring.
But in reading the reflections of Father Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M.Cap., in my daily devotional, “Magnificat,” I realize that the Holy Spirit’s guidance might also reside within ourselves, that we need not be so obsessed about identifying it in peoples, places, and things around us, because we can learn how to hear it speak from our inner most self, if we are able to quiet the interior chatter.
Writes Fr. Raniero:
Where does the Paraclete’s role as guide actually touch us? What, if we may use the expression, are the organs through which the Spirit fulfills this function? The first arena of guidance is the conscience …
In believers the inner guide of conscience is, so to say, empowered and raised to a higher order by the anointing that “teaches everything” (1 John 2:27), and so it is an infallible guide, if we listen to it. It was, in fact, when commenting on this very point that Saint Augustine formulated the teaching on the Holy Spirit as “the teacher within.”
What, he asks, does it mean, to say, “You do not need anyone to teach you” (1 John 2:27)? Could it mean that the individual Christian already, on his own account alone, knows everything and does not need to read or to seek instruction or to listen to anyone else?
If that were the case, what point would there be in the apostle having written his letter at all?
The truth is that we do need to listen to teachers and preacher other than ourselves, but only the one to whom the Holy Spirit speaks inwardly will grasp and be able to profit by what the others are saying. This explains why many can listen to the same sermon and the same teaching, but not all will understand it in the same way.
I find all of this interesting, God, because I caught some major attitude the other day when I discussed paragraph 1776 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on a religiously conservative radio show. It says:
Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment.…. For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God….His conscience is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.
My problem, as you well know, God, is that I have trouble hearing my conscience when I’m in either a hypomanic cycle or an addictive mode, which is a lot of the time. My craving for the addictive object is stronger than the quiet whisper of my conscience that says, “S-L-O-W D-O-W-N.” I can’t be trusted to discern what the Holy Spirit is saying to me, because it all sounds like mumble jumble to me.
I was describing my anxious and addictive state to my therapist yesterday, and she shocked me with her response: “What are you doing to pray about it?”
“Huh?” I said, floored that she mentioned the God word. But elated, really elated that I had found a counselor who could go to my inner core—to the spirit—in order to know how best to help me move through the obsessive thoughts.
“Wow,” I responded. “I wasn’t expecting you to say that.”
Then she told me that she prays before every therapy session, that she may be led by the Holy Spirit.
And that floored me even more.
She is, indeed, an instrument of the Holy Spirit. And so are my friends, especially the one who took my hand last week and told me to “concentrate on growing the tree” or laying the foundation, or treating the hole in the soul, instead of making up a set of complicated rules for how to tame my addiction.
But the Advocate also lives inside me. In my conscience. When it’s well-informed through lots scripture reading, and prayer, and quiet time, and doing everything I can do to grow the tree and not get sucked into addictions or manic cycles.