The Italian word for lawyer is “avvocato.” It’s not the word for the fruit used in making guacamole. Rather it is the same word we use in English as “advocate.” I was a practicing lawyer in the years before I entered the seminary. In fact, I keep my membership status active in the bar even though I no longer practice law in the traditional sense.
As a seminarian in Rome, I would often describe my prior background as an “avvocato,” which took on new meaning as I began to appreciate that one of the ways Jesus reveals the Holy Spirit is as the Advocate:
Jesus said to his disciples:
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
And I will ask the Father,
and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,
the Spirit of truth …
When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father,
he will testify to me…” (John 14-15, emphasis added.)
There are so many images of the Holy Spirit that the Holy Spirit as Advocate can be overlooked in favor of the images of dove, fire and driving wind. To focus on the Holy Spirit as an Advocate reminds us that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to assist us, guide us, counsel us and lead us to all truth.
To extend the courtroom analogy, we more routinely think of God as Judge – one to whom we must give an account for what we believe and have done. While that is indeed true, we must never lose sight of the fact that in this life, right now, we have an Advocate who wants us to thrive and is there to give us guidance and wisdom.
Our response is to call upon the Advocate, to pray to the Holy Spirit. We should always do so, especially when facing spiritual crises or major decisions. It’s as simple as saying “Holy Spirit, I need you. I call upon you to give me right judgment and courage.”
Lest we think this is purely theoretical, I share with you a recent message I received from a friend who was explaining his reaction to a spiritual experience he had a few years ago. His response led to the Holy Spirit having an even greater role as an Advocate:
“What was revealed to me is that I needed to listen to the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, really hear the instruction and then embrace the instruction wholeheartedly! Then (I needed to) execute the instruction to the best of my ability, since doing God’s will and following the instruction instead of leaning on what I think has led to much greater good and outcomes in all areas of my journey.”
As we approach Pentecost Sunday, let’s use this time to call upon the Holy Spirit as Advocate, to ask for his guidance. Let’s call on the power of our baptism and confirmation and ask the Holy Spirit to have a greater role in our lives and to advocate for us always. Come Holy Spirit!
Most Reverend Robert J. McClory
Diocese of Gary