An Advent Reflection
The theme of the second week of Advent in our parish is “The Promise of the Spirit” from last Sunday’s readings. Today’s advent verse is from the Gospel of John.
The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. —John 14:26
Where does a child learn hate? I look at this picture of a young man before a Nazi war flag and I can’t help but wonder about the path that brought him there.
What spirit of bitterness makes heroes of those who considered people of Jewish descent so odious that they must be wiped off the earth? What spirit of fear encrusts itself in Jim Crow laws? What spirit of deception forwards fake news and leads a young man to believe it and prepare for an armed assault on a pizza parlor?
We teach our children not only the sounds a cow makes (and note, “moo” is a socially defined sound, not the true noise of cattle), but whom to trust and whom to fear. My daughter Anna had an incredible eye for color. She could match reds from memory (I learned she could do this when shopping with her for a Christmas gift for her mother). We moved to Detroit when she was not quite two. One day, when I was in a conversation with someone that must have included some reference to black folks, I caught her looking around in puzzlement. I asked her what she was looking for and she replied, “I don’t see any black people.” What she saw were myriad shades of browns. To see people as ‘black’ – or, for that matter, ‘white’ (Anna had trouble with that, too) – is something we learn from the society around us.
I remember as a child there was a light pinkish crayon in the 64-color box labeled “flesh”. What would it mean to be taught by God? What would it take for us, having learned all we know from the society around us, to start over to be instructed by the Holy Spirit?
It is a great promise, a great and wonderful promise. It is also a stunning challenge. It will not let us live comfortably with what we think we already know. An advocate has come, one whose purpose is to call to mind the words of Jesus, one whose purpose it is to teach us everything.