May 23, 2021; John 7: 37-39; Pentecost
There is a frightening line in today’s gospel. Jesus says to his disciples, “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.” Ouch! This sentence tells us that Jesus knows our future and that there are many parts of our future that are not good. All of us will have to face in our future some kind of tragedy, some kind of suffering, some kind of loss. Jesus knows what those trials will be, but he does not tell us because we are not able to bear it now. Now we can imagine what are trials might be by looking at the experience of other people. Perhaps you know a couple who have lost a teenage daughter or son in a car accident. Maybe someone in your family has been diagnosed with cancer. Maybe you watched a parent die a slow and painful death. With each one of these stories the recognition comes to us that in a month, in a year, or maybe in ten years that trial might be mine.
Now the good news in today’s gospel is that it does not end with Jesus’ frightening statement. Immediately after he points to the future, he promises the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth who will guide us. The Holy Spirit is given to us so that we might have the strength to face the trials that are to come. The Holy Spirit is God’s presence within us giving us the courage in times of tragedy and patience when we must suffer.
Now those gifts are not necessarily given to us today, but we believe that the Holy Spirit will provide them when they are needed. How many times have you looked at other people who are suffering and said to yourself, “I could never face that trial. I would never have the strength to carry that burden.” What you say is true enough, there are trials in life that go beyond the human power to address, but the Holy Spirit is our super-human power. We believe that when the trials of the future emerge, the Spirit will give us the strength we need.
So, all in all, it’s probably better that we don’t know the future. As Jesus says, “It might be too much for us to bear.” But even though we do not know what is to come, we do know who will be with us when it arrives. We have the Spirit of God who can give is courage, patience, and hope no matter what trial we have to face.