The Gospel St. John 16.5
At that time; Jesus said unto his disciples, Now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many thing to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit, when he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
You know, at times some of the things that Jesus said had the effect of confusing and depressing his disciples. To be sure, all his talk about the arrival of the Kingdom of God must have been exciting and uplifting; and the miracles themselves would have been enough to whip them up into a fervor of wonder and awe.
But then Jesus brings them down with all this talk about his going away. They couldn’t understand; after all, Jesus was a relatively young man; and no doubt the disciples knew that they still needed to be taught and led by him. Why should he need to leave so soon, when there appeared to be much yet to be done?
So, as many of us would, the disciples fretted when Jesus would speak in this way. And, again like many of us, they were afraid to ask where Jesus was going and why he needed to go there. As always, Our Lord knew the disciples despair, and he tells them why his departure from this world is necessary; He needs to leave so that the Revelation of God may continue.
Now this might seem to be an odd statement since we know that Jesus Christ is the ultimate Revelation of God. But to say that the Revelation of God ended when Our Lord Ascended into Heaven would be incorrect; because as we all know, God does not limit Himself to just one event or period of time. He encompasses all time; and so too does His Revelation.
To define it another way, the act of revelation means that something is discovered or disclosed. And often this discovery is something striking in nature, or something not before considered or realized. Based on this, we know, just by looking at the history of the Catholic Church, that the Revelation of God has been an ongoing phenomena; one that humanity has constantly pursued over the centuries. If it were otherwise, more than a few theologians would be put out of business (not that that would be a bad thing!)
And if we require any further proof that the Revelation of God has never been a stagnant process, we need only look at the Bible itself. From the very beginning, we can see how God has communicated His Will and Wisdom to His Chosen people; always slowly, deliberately, in bits and pieces; as much as humanity was able to handle at any particular point in time.
And so it only makes sense to say that while we acknowledge that His ultimate Revelation took place in the Person of His Holy Incarnation, it is also logical to conclude that He would continue to reveal His Will and Wisdom to us in proceeding generations; in accordance with our ability to comprehend. After all, who are we to say that even now, we can comprehend the entirety of God?
Now when the question is put like that, it might seem a hopeless task. Fortunately, God knows this; even Jesus told us that; I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. For our purpose here today, Christ was not speaking just to his disciples; rather he was speaking to all of us as well. And you will note that when he spoke these words, Jesus was not saying that God’s revelation would occur immediately after his Resurrection; but that these things would be revealed after his departure from this world; his Ascension into Heaven. And they would be revealed by another “Person”; the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit.
Here, in this passage from St. John’s Gospel, we have the entirety of the Revelation of God neatly summed up in what we can easily recognize as a classical Trinitarian formula. Now I go my way to him that sent me; God the Father. He shall glorify me. God the Son. Howbeit, when he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth. God the Holy Spirit.
And notice here the use of the word “guide”. It implies a continuing process; one that assumes that there is an ultimate destination to be attained; but also acknowledges that there are various points, various mileposts, various levels of achievement and understanding to be reached before the final achievement can be realized.
This is why we cannot think of the Revelation of God as being at an end when Christ Ascended into Heaven or when the final book of the New Testament was written. God continues to guide us, to lead us, to inspire us through His Holy Spirit. He speaks to us and is ever present with us in this world by that same Spirit. He communicates His Will to us by that same Spirit. He constantly Reveals Himself to us, by that same Spirit. And by doing so, He helps us to navigate all those points and mileposts, and achieve understanding so that we may know all Truth.
But here I must add a word of caution. All too often we have seen the Word of God corrupted by those who think that He is “doing a new thing” in our time. These people will use the notion of God’s continuing Revelation to promote doctrines and ideologies that are obviously heretical. But these same people forget one crucial point; that nothing in God’s continuing revelation can ever be in contradiction with that which He has already revealed.
The Revelation of God will always be constant and consistent, no matter the particular doctrine, dogma, or ideology of man. “Howbeit, when he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth“; and further this statement acknowledges our place in the order of those seeking knowledge from Our Lord; “for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come“.
God does not limit Himself in just one way or in one period of time; He encompasses all time and in all ways; and so too does His Revelation. He continues to Reveal Himself to us; but always with the same message though by different means; in our daily lives through the manifold blessings we receive; in the little things such as the small voice we hear urging us to consider some act of kindness or charity; and of course, most obviously, in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Body and Blood of His Son.
It is a worthy endeavor to seek the Will of God. But as we do this, we must remember that we should always seek His Will through the work of His Holy Spirit. And unlike those disciples who were fraught with anxiety after Our Lord’s Death, we must not fret if it seems that the information or instruction that we think we need isn’t forthcoming. Jesus told his disciples that there were many things that they simply weren’t ready to hear. So it is with us as well.
God will give us all that we need; when we need it, and when we are ready to comprehend it. In those times, He will send His Holy Spirit to us; to teach us, to comfort us, and to guide us into the way of all truth. He has promised to continue His Revelation through that same Spirit, who shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.