|This week I am spending perhaps a little too much time reflecting on the Greek word paraclete. In our Gospel lesson for Sunday, we hear Jesus telling his disciples that though he will no longer be present among them, they will not be alone, for Jesus will send the paraclete. This term proves difficult to translate into English. As evidence, here is John 14: 16 in a few different English translations.|
"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever." (New Revised Standard Version)
"I will ask the Father, and he will send another Companion, who will be with you forever." (Common English Bible)
"And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may be with you for ever..." (American Standard Version)
"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever..." (English Standard Version)
"Then I will ask the Father to send you the Holy Spirit who will help you and always be with you." (Contemporary English Version)
You probably get the idea. In Greek paraclete refers to the Holy Spirit, but the term is a hard one to translate. There an aspect of the Holy Spirit that is our companion/comforter/helper/advocate being proclaimed here. That much is certain. No matter how we interpret this term, it is clear that Jesus wants us to know we will not be alone. That in God's ever present Spirit we have a companion, comforter, advocate who seeks to help us.
I find this is a particularly important reminder for a time when we are all going through grief of some form or another. We are grieving for the loss of connection and contact with our families and friends. We are grieving for the freedoms we relinquish in order to protect ourselves and others. We are grieving for the loss of work and purpose and income. Far too many of us are grieving for the death of a loved one and the inability to gather and mourn together.
In all of the ways that we are grieving our sense of isolation increases. This is why it is so important to remind ourselves and each other that we are not alone. God is with us. We celebrate Jesus as Emmanuel, God-with-Us. Let us also celebrate the Holy Spirit as Paraclete, our comforting companion who helps us and advocates for us. We are not alone.
Telling our Stories
In times of grief, whether it is for a loved one, or a loss of a job, a relationship, a level of health, or something else, it always helps to tell our stories. Stories help us to process what we have lost and help us to define what we carry forward. This week I encourage you to call a friend and tell them a story. It can be a story of a loved one who is no longer here, or a story of a time when you were able to do something that you cannot do any longer. As you share the story, also reflect on why this story is important to you. What does it continue to teach you about your life today? Does it reflect the power of God's love? Does it remind you that laughter and sunshine will come again? Does it increase your gratitude for the moments or people that form your life? You might share these reflections with your friend, or you might just invite your friend to tell you a story in return.