Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying, “Wise men don’t need advice. Fools won’t take it.” I think most of us fall somewhere in the middle. Hopefully, we are less foolish and moving more along to path of gaining wisdom. Jesus continues his best efforts in today’s Gospel to offer guidance and assurance to his disciples that the Holy Spirit will continue to be their guide. “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth” (Jn 16:12-13a).
Surely, Jesus could see the lamps turning off in the eyes of his disciples. As discussed yesterday, comprehending the death of the Messiah, his Resurrection, and return to the Father was a bit much to digest. Jesus, though, still needed to share what his Father gave him to share, and the disciples were to take in what they could. Jesus’ death and Ascension were not to put an end to their learning, deepening of their understanding, or further developing their relationship with Jesus and his Father. The Holy Spirit would continue what Jesus started, to lead them to all truth, the fullness of the foundational relationship that is the source of all, the Holy Trinity.
Anyone involved in teaching anyone anything or regarding learning something ourselves will know, that just telling someone something does not mean that learning has happened. There is a process of introduction, integration, practice, review, mistakes, corrections, and adjustments until mastery is achieved. With the disciples, this is the same. Jesus did not just present things once and move on to the next order of business. That is why John declared at the end of his Gospel that: “There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written” (Jn 21:25).
I am sure a part of what John was talking about here were the lessons, corrections, and guidance Jesus offered. Just as Joseph modeled for and guided Jesus in his trade in carpentry, so Jesus learned from him through observation, practice, mistakes, adjustments, and corrections. Jesus guided his disciples in the same way, as a mentor with his apprentices. He was now assuring them that even though he would be leaving them, the guidance and leading would continue with the support of the Holy Spirit.
The lessons about the immanence of God, God within himself as a Trinitarian communion, that Jesus taught were not as concrete a sawing, hammering, and planing boards though. God is not a being, not even a supreme being, meaning that he transcends our ability to comprehend the fullness of his reality. We will never fully comprehend God or exhaust the richness and the depth of our relationship with God.
On the human level, we are guilty of malpractice in our relationships when we assume that we know everything there is to know about someone else. The gift of the person, the human being, is that we are ever-developing and growing in the mystery and wonder of who we are and who we are called to be. We can always surprise each other. If this is true for us in our relationships with each other, it is much more so in our relationship with God. Once we get to one level of understanding, we plateau for a time, but that is not the end of the journey, that is only a time to savor, to ponder, and contemplate until we are ready to go ever deeper into the truth that the Holy Spirit will reveal to us.
Our tradition teaches us that the fullness of God has been revealed in Jesus Christ, which is true, yet to comprehend that revelation will take a lifetime and continue on into eternity just to scratch the surface. St Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), a Dominican Friar, who is considered the Angelic Doctor of the Church, was one of the top theological influences during the Scholastic Period, yet close to the end of his life he had a mystical encounter with God in which he came to realize that all of his intellectual achievement, all that he had written, mattered no more than a pile of straw compared to that which God had revealed to him.
Arguably one of the wisest persons of his time, and some would say one of the most brilliant minds ever, was also one who was steeped in daily prayer and continued to be open to the majestic wonder of the glory of God. May we too continue to embrace the gift of wonder, the gift of learning, and never settle, rest and savor yes, but continue to learn and grow, to seek and hunger for the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, to continually have our hearts and minds open to allow the Holy Spirit to guide us “to all truth”!