|Photo by Ben Torres/NTC|
September 26, 2019
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral
Fort Worth, Texas
1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13
John 15:26-27; 16:12-15
In our Gospel reading this evening Jesus promises to send us an Advocate who will speak on our behalf. The Greek word for this is parakletos. Jesus is speaking of the Holy Spirit whose Pentecost is spoken of in the first reading for this evening’s liturgy. Parakletos literally means mouthpiece. It is a term that carries legal connotations, a parakletos is a legal advocate who pleads a defendant’s cause — a lawyer. Thus, the Holy Spirit is the Advocate who pleads on our behalf in the divine economy of Christ’s restorative justice.
The Advocate speaks on behalf of the restorative justice merited by Christ for our salvation. This divine justice is measured by His bias in favor of those most wounded and prone to be wounded by sin and its effects. Yet, Christ’s justice is not simply the substitution of one bias with another form of bias whereby those who are oppressed change places with the oppressors and the dominated become the dominators and vice versa. That would be a form of revenge structured by narrative and implemented by a coercive force that simply repeats the cycle of sin. Revenge, like all sin, is incompatible with God’s nature and impossible for God to perform.
The restorative justice merited by Christ is also not the “eye for an eye” sense of justice measured out by the old and provisional covenant established in Sinai between God and the Israelites. The justice of the Mosaic covenant was clearly provisional until the coming of the Messiah who would establish a new and lasting covenant. Saint Paul clearly indicates in his letter to the Galatians that the law of the old covenant and its works cannot save us, but that salvation depends on the promise of God fulfilled by Jesus Christ.
The restorative justice of Christ is the truth fully revealed by Him through His life, His preaching and miracles, His suffering, His death and resurrection, and His ascension into heaven. Jesus Christ is the truth who simultaneously reveals and absolves our sins and who restores a right order that surpasses even the paradise of the Garden of Eden before the fall. “O happy fault, o necessary sin of Adam, that won for us a savior who is Christ, the Lord,” as the Church exults every Easter Vigil. Christ entrusts the completion of this mission of redemption to the Church, each of the baptized who receive the Holy Spirit and carry it out in their daily lives.
This mission of carrying out Christ’s restorative justice entrusted to the Church especially belongs to those who have been given the vocation to serve as lawyers or civic officials in our society. Lawyers have a vocation of advocacy exemplified by the work of the Holy Spirit who never speaks for Himself. The vocation of advocacy of lawyers requires a selfless life ordered by reason and informed by faith. It requires a commitment to the truth in order to guide sound moral judgment. The sound moral judgment of lawyers made in the integrity of every aspect of their personal life guides how they will advocate on behalf of their client. Without a sound commitment to the truth as ascertained by reason and informed by faith, the practice of law and accompanying jurisprudence becomes merely the technically efficient imposition of a coercive narrative in place of a different narrative. Every time this is done, the woven fabric of the common good becomes frayed and tattered, and the weak and the vulnerable are harmed. The moral virtue of fortitude is essential to remain strong in the vocation of advocacy directed to our destiny in the Lord’s Kingdom. As Saint Cyril of Alexandria once said: “With the Holy Spirit within us, ‘it is quite natural for people who have been absorbed by the things of this world to become entirely other-worldly in outlook, and for cowards to become people of great courage.’”
In our society, justice is brought about and upheld for the common good through the mitigation of law and the dedicated service of lawyers and civic officials. Yet, the law can only promote justice if it is understood and promulgated as an ordinance of reason and not as a dictate of the imposed and coercive will of the legislator or judge. Law is not simply an act of coercion on the part of the state or of the court; the law is not the mere substitution of one narrative for another narrative; the law is an ordinance of reason and reflects moral judgment. Law can only perform this function if the lawyers and civic officials live according to the order of right reason with ever-developing virtuous character.
When law is enacted as an ordinance of reason, it fosters the right order of justice engendered by the truth in its entirety. On the contrary, when law is enacted or upheld as a coercive force of the will on the part of the legislator or judge it results neither in justice nor freedom but in an uneasy truce balanced precariously by mutual self-interests. As Pope Leo XIII wrote more than 130 years ago in his encyclical Immortale Dei, “the best parent and guardian of liberty amongst human beings is truth.”
|Photo by Ben Torres/NTC|
The events of Pentecost displayed in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles reveal God’s continued undoing of the effects of sin. The event of Pentecost specifically brings about the undoing of the sinful effects of Babel. Whereas human beings at Babel sought to make themselves like God — establishing their lives according to their own autonomously selfish initiative, behaving as if God did not exist (or if He does exist He doesn’t matter much) — the result being chaos and disorder from the confusion of speech, the fomenting of distrust, the systematizing of discord between and among human beings, and the abuse of power and violent injustice.
At Pentecost, the initiation of the Church’s life, it is the divine initiative of grace that compels the apostles to understand and to speak in the languages of the then-known world. Each nation hears the Gospel preached by the apostles in their own vernacular. The understanding comes through the Advocate and it involves and enables the active and graced response of human beings. It is the fullness of the truth revealed in Christ that transcends languages and cultures. That which humanity has previously inflicted upon itself as part of the chaotic result of the arrogant sin of Babel, the confusion of languages, is now redeemed by Christ’s victory over sin through the activity of the Holy Spirit in animating the Church.
At Pentecost the Holy Spirit redeems the sin and punishment of Babel, the confusion of tongues and the ensuing rancorous entropy. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit does not erase the difference in languages by imposing a uniformity of speech or the haughty pretense of a global vision; rather the Advocate of the truth redeems the effects of these differences and enables understanding where before mistrust and confusion existed as the bitter fruits of sinful difference in language. Division is reconciled and communion is fused through the power of the Holy Spirit who universalizes each and all peoples, Jews and Gentiles, to become one People of God without destroying the integral character of local communities or the identity of nations united and joined together by sound borders. Neither justice nor mercy dispense with the moral order nor do they deny good or evil. Faithful members of the Catholic Church, especially lawyers and civic officials blessed with the vocation of advocacy, promote justice not because it’s good strategy or because it serves our presently preferred expediency, we promote justice because that is what is required for us to be converted and configured to the rationally-apprehended truth and goodness of God fully revealed in Jesus Christ, the mystery into which the Advocate draws us.
The cause that the Advocate pleads is the mission of communion of the Church. The defense of the Advocate is offered against the return of the distrust, chaos, and violence of Babel, the work of the Devil — the great accuser. The Holy Spirit is the advocate that will not allow the chaos of Babel to return to human beings through their graced participation and belonging in Christ’s Church as grasped by faith, strengthened in hope, and shared in love.
The same temptations of Babel remain in our fallen, yet redeemed, world of today. There are voices in education, politics, law, and the arts who reassert the arrogant claims of Babel as narratives and programs that dehumanize persons by a systematized pretense that God does not exist or if He does exist, He doesn’t matter much. Such narratives include the redefinition of when human life begins or ends, the ever-undulating fluctuation of gender ideology, and the redefinition of marriage as merely a permissive contract between individuals.
We are gathered here in this Eucharistic assembly to ask the Advocate again that we become a stronger part of the Church’s mission, to forgive and to redeem our sins, and to bring to us order out of chaos. We pray that we be a part of Christ’s plan, not that we subvert His plans into our own. This is not only good news — it is urgent news. We are speaking of the work of the Holy Spirit and in divine providence the Advocate needs and calls advocates. This is the reason that lawyers and civic officials who have received the vocation of advocacy are so especially needed in our society today. The Advocate is generous in the gifts He offers, I urge you to step forward to receive these gifts anew, praying again with open hands that you will be good stewards of what is offered to you by God.