By Kristen Gunn
A Reading from the Gospel of John 16:1-15
1 “I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. 3 And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me. 4 But I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them.
“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5 But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. 7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11 about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.
12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
Growing up, I loved the Artemis Fowl books — so much so that I remember shedding tears when I’d closed the back cover of the last book in what was then only a trilogy. Artemis had become a friend, and his world a world of delights. (What I didn’t know at 11, being uninitiated in the ways of the market, was that more volumes were soon to appear.)
The sorrow Christ’s first disciples felt at the news of his “go[ing] away” makes deep, human sense. Grief at the losses and endings of certain goods that come to us in this life is natural; they bear to us, after all, some hint, some scent, of the Good that is beyond nature. And yet the Lord who came from beyond nature in order to perfect it — the God-Man himself — said to his disciples, “It is to your advantage that I go away” (16:7). His grace had yet to be poured out in such a way that our partaking in it — that mutual embrace of lover and beloved — could perfect us to the point of our sharing in his splendor: both cross and crown.
The first generation of Christians knew Jesus in the flesh for a little while so that they might learn whom and how to love. As Augustine preached to his congregation at Hippo on this very passage of John’s Gospel:
For that cannot be loved that is altogether unknown. But when what is known, in however small a measure, is also loved, by the same love, one is led on to a better and fuller knowledge. If, then, you grow in the love that the Holy Spirit spreads abroad in your hearts, “He will teach you all truth.” (Tractates on the Gospel of John 96.4)
Kristen Gunn is a student at Nashotah House Theological Seminary, where she is happily plucking away at an M.T.S. She has a B.A. in religion and linguistics, and loves dancing in the patristics section of the library when she thinks she is alone.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Diocese on the Lake – The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)
Academy of Classical Christian Studies, Oklahoma City, Okla.