These promises go some way to helping us understand why Jesus ascended to the Father, and sent the Holy Spirit.
If Jesus was still present on earth in His glorified body, we would all be pre-occupied with everything He said and did, and would never get around to doing what God wants us to do. Think of the biggest celebrity you know, and multiply that pulling power by at least 100. Yet on earth, Jesus continually refused anything to do with celebrity in favour of building long-term personal committed relationships. Superstar celebrity is not the modus-operandi of Jesus.
What He did is very different, and far more effective. He sent each and every one of us who have committed our lives to Him the gift of a Master Tutor, a.k.a. the Holy Spirit.
At the time these promises were given at the Last Supper, the disciples had not been through the crucible of the death and resurrection of Jesus. So there were plenty of things at that level that they had no hope of understanding until after they had experienced His risen presence.
But the ‘I still have many things to say to you but they would be too much for you to bear now’ went even deeper than that.
A young child is incapable of understanding anything at an adult level. A lot of growth, maturity and learning about the world we live in is necessary before anyone attains an adult understanding of anything.
Similarly if you started to explain the finer points of performing a Beethoven symphony to someone who has only just learned to play ‘chopsticks’, it is going to be completely lost on them. To get them from playing ‘chopsticks’ to giving a credible performance of a Beethoven symphony is going to require many lessons that build on each other, and lots of homework, practice, tests, and time.
The same is true for the difference between someone learning the first 10 nouns and the first verb declension of a new language, and someone reading and writing literature in that language; or the difference between someone who has just begun to learn how to do a plie and a tendu and someone who dances as prima ballerina in Swan Lake.
Everyone begins at the beginning.
When we hear ‘Advocate’ or ‘Paraclete’ to describe the Holy Spirit, it may be useful to translate that into Master Tutor.
Because that is exactly what the Holy Spirit is, and what He graciously does. He takes us step by step, lesson by lesson, from baby steps in our relationship with God and our ability to administer His love to others, on a perfectly designed individual learning plan, to heights of relationship with God and ability to administer His love to others that we can’t even start to imagine. And there’s always more that He wants to teach us, and far more that He is capable of teaching us.
But He is a perfect gentleman, and He adjusts everything to our pace, and to the degree of co-operation and trust we give Him, and to our diligence (or lack thereof) in doing the necessary practice and homework to get to the next level/lesson.
Is it not absolutely amazing that God gives us this Master of Master Tutors in the Holy Spirit?
That promise, ‘He will lead you to the complete truth’ is both personal and corporate. If you look carefully at Christian history, you will notice that each era was learning something extraordinary which built on the lived response and understanding of previous eras and generations in the Church. eg. The monastic orders grew out of the desert fathers, the mendicant orders grew out of the monastic orders; devotion to the Divine Mercy was not possible before devotion to the Sacred Heart had permeated the Church.
There are things the Holy Spirit is leading the Church into in our times, that could not have been done in any earlier era. Over the past 120 years some of that has been a rediscovery of the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit, which is an ongoing process. We can also see a greater openness to ecumenism led by the same Holy Spirit over the last 50-60 years.
There is always more He wants to lead us into, point the way to, and teach us about.
Are we willing to diligently co-operate with Him?
Dear Holy Spirit, I am so sorry for how much I have been underestimating Your work in my life and in the life of the Church, and the superabundantly enormous gift You are from Jesus and the Father. I am so sorry for grieving you, and for being an unwilling, unappreciative, lazy and un-co-operative student. Please forgive me. I want this to change from today onwards, and forever. I want to learn and co-operate with anything and everything You want to teach me. In particular I ask your special help to attain competency in those areas where I have been resisting You the most. I don’t want to do that any more. Please forgive and help me. Amen.