God with us and in us

God with us and in us Detail from 'The return of the prodigal son', Rembrandt Getty Images
The Sunday Gospel
Fr Silvester O’Flynn


We may be irritated by restrictions on our movements, anxious about the future of jobs and business, or disappointed by no sport. We continue to need our regular doses of the Good News.

Sunday by Sunday we are moving on from the Resurrection of Jesus towards Pentecost. The 40 days from Resurrection to Ascension were a time of transition for the Apostles. They had to advance from knowing Jesus in the flesh to knowing the unseen God in Faith. As the Risen Lord said to Thomas: “Blessed are those who have not seen but yet believe.”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of “another Advocate to be with you forever”.

Advocate is a Latin word meaning a friend/helper called to your assistance. Paraclete is the Greek equivalent. The first Advocate was Jesus, the Son of God come in human flesh, one with us. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us”.

The other or second Advocate is the Holy Spirit.

St Irenaeus, who lived about 100 years after Jesus, reflected on the wonderful parable of the loving father welcoming back the prodigal son. Irenaeus focused on the two hands of the father, one visible, the other unseen. The visible hand, warmly shaking the trembling hand of the wastrel, represents Jesus. The unseen hand, behind the son’s back, is drawing him into the heart of the father. This is the Holy Spirit, the second Advocate.


Jesus, speaking with Nicodemus, compared the Holy Spirit to the wind. We do not see the wind but we see its effects in the slanting of smoke, the scudding of clouds, or the scampering of leaves. While we cannot see the Spirit we can recognise the effects of the Spirit. “By their fruits you shall know them.” St Paul listed nine fruits of the Spirit. Three fruits manifest an intimate relationship with God: love, joy and peace; three fruits are qualities of a Christian relationship with other people: patience, kindness and goodness; three fruits describe the inner strength of Faith: trustfulness, gentleness and self-control.

A great advance in personal prayer is from knowing a remote God-up-there to experiencing the warm presence of God-in-here. People have called it the 14-inch drop…from the brain to the heart.

I thank you, Lord, for the wonder of my being and the wonders of all creation. Even more wonderful is my sharing now in your divine life. You are as close to me as my breathing.

May the rhythm of my breathing be the rhythm of my prayer.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your Faithful.

Fr Silvester’s new book ‘Gospel Reflections and Prayers‘ is available at Columba Books.