Home Homilies Michael Whelan SM, PhD Gospel for Pentecost Sunday (Year B) (19 May 2024)

Gospel for Pentecost Sunday (Year B) (19 May 2024)

Gospel Notes by Michael Whelan SM

“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning. (John 15:26–27 – NRSV).

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 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. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (Jn 16:12–15 – NRSV)

[This text is the first option for the Mass during the day of Pentecost.]

Introductory notes


The Spirit is sent by both the Father and the Son to continue the work of Jesus: “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf”. In John 10:30 we have heard Jesus say: “The Father and I are one”. The intimacy of the Father and Son is a feature of John’s Gospel. Father, Son and Spirit share the one mission.


Advocate: The Greek word is paraklētos. It is one of the great words of John’s Gospel where it is used as a title of the Holy Spirit in 14:16, 14:26, 15:26 and 16:7. Also, it is applied to Jesus who “pleads our cause before the Father” (1 John 2:1). However, the word presents some challenges for the translators. It may be translated as “intercessor”, “helper” or “advocate” or similar English expressions such as “one who stands by you” or “one who comes to your aid”. Sometimes the Greek word is kept as an English word – Paraclete. Its most common usage in Greek is in reference to legal matters.

John Wycliffe (1330s – 1384) favoured the word “comforter”. It should be noted however that key to the English word “comforter” as used by Wycliffe, is the Latin word fortis meaning “strong” or “powerful”. Thus, Wycliffe leans towards Luke’s understanding when he uses the Greek word dunamis of the Spirit, meaning “power” – see Luke 1:35 and 24:49. We get our word dynamite from that Greek word! William Barclay writes: “Parakalein is the word of the rallying-call; it is the word used of the speeches of leaders and of soldiers who urge each other on. It is the word used of words which send fearful and timorous and hesitant soldiers and sailors courageously into battle. A paraklētos is therefore an encourager, one who puts courage into the faint-hearted, one who nerves the feeble arm for fight, one who makes a very ordinary man cope gallantly with a perilous and a dangerous situation. Here then we have the great work of the Holy Spirit. To put it in modern language, the Holy Spirit makes men able to cope with life. The Holy Spirit is in fact the fulfilment of the promise, ‘Lo, I am with you always even unto the end of the world’ (Matt. 28.20).” (William Barclay, New Testament Words (The William Barclay Library) (Kindle Locations 3502-3505). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.)

The Spirit of truth: The Greek word, alētheia – meaning “truth” – is an important one for John. Jesus is the truth – see John 14:6. Jesus is the revelation of God’s plan. John is not talking of theological propositions or articles of faith. He is speaking of the Father’s intentions and plan being wrought in Him. “God so loved the world he gave his only son!” (John 3:16). The Spirit of truth is the Spirit of God – the God of the Covenant. The Spirit will complete the mission Jesus has been about.

You also are to testify: The disciples – then and now – are drawn into the work of the Spirit. This could be interpreted as an imperative – that is, you must testify – or a statement of fact – that is, if you abide in me, and I abide in you, your very existence will testify to Jesus and therefore the Father’s mission. The later phrase reiterates this idea: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”

he will not speak on his own: This echoes Jesus’ statement earlier: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work” (John 4:34). The disciple must never forget that he/she is about the Father’s mission. It is God’s work!


In today’s Gospel – John 15:26-27 & 16:12-15 – we hear the Holy Spirit twice called “the Spirit of truth”. John has already used this title (14:17). In fact, references to truth, in relation to the mission of Jesus, occur repeatedly in John’s Gospel, beginning with the Prologue: “The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. … The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (1:14-18). And at the end of John’s Gospel, we have the memorable exchange with Pilate: “‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’ Pilate asked him, ‘What is truth?’” (18:37-38).

Jesus identified himself with truth (see 14:6) and if we abide in him we “will know the truth, and the truth will make (us) free’” (8:31-32). In passing, we note that he designated our enemy as “the father of lies” (8:44).

It would be easy to get lost in a discussion of Pilate’s question. In fact, I think Pilate was too much of a pragmatist and too full of self-interest to care about truth. Am I? How might I encounter “the Spirit of truth” – in other words, the real presence of Jesus – in my own life?

What if we were to think of Jesus coming to us disguised as the truth of our everyday experiences? Am I tired, troubled, anxious, confused, fed up, delighted, happy, at peace . . .? There is a truth right there, in each of those experiences. “The Spirit of truth” awaits us in every moment, everywhere. And we should not overlook the fact that there is truth even in our sins. Why else would we confess our sins? Did it ever occur to you that “the Spirit of truth” – the real presence of Jesus – is right there, disguised as the truth of your sin?

Never lie to yourself. The “father of lies” really likes to see us try to slither way from the truth – blame others, avoid accountability, refuse responsibility, dissemble, rationalize . . . . do anything but face the truth!

Seek the truth in your daily experiences. Get into the habit of listening, paying attention, fostering awareness in a non-judgmental way. Being judgmental gets in the way of us hearing what is actually happening – the truth in other words. The art of open questioning helps. An open question is a question you ask but do not answer. This is a simple concept but very difficult to do. You have to work at it over many months. I suspect that one reason we find it so difficult is that answers hold out the promise of control. Which would you rather: Maintain control or surrender to “the Spirit of truth”?