God uses a divine pedagogy in forming us like school children (cf. Ignatius’ Autobiography par. 27). God does not necessarily wait until we can understand something to act on our behalf. God ever again reveals things that surpass our comprehension, such that, uncomprehending, we are invited to “treasure all these things, pondering them in [our] heart” (cf. Lk 2:19). At the last supper, Jesus tells Peter, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but later you will understand” (Jn 13:7). In today’s Gospel, Jesus says, “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now” (Jn 16:12). And yet, Jesus withholds nothing of himself, and he will send the Spirit who “will guide you to all truth” (Jn 16:13). But how does the Spirit guide us into all truth? Through a textbook? A scholastic disputation? A crash course? A beatific illumination?
The Holy Spirit can make use of all these things, certainly, but the way that Jesus indicates here cannot be reduced to any one of them. Rather, the Holy Spirit, “will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears” (Jn 16:13). All that the Father has is the Son’s (Jn 16:15), and Jesus says that the Holy Spirit “will take from what is mine and declare it to you” (Jn 16:14). In the Gospel, what Jesus receives from the Father and offers to us through the Holy Spirit is his own life. When we read scripture, guided by the Holy Spirit, the reality of Jesus’ life is truly communicated to us. When we live the life that the Holy Spirit offers us through the Church and her sacraments, this life of Christ that we receive, insofar as we receive it, cannot be limited to the moments that we spend in church or reserve for prayer or Christian service. Rather we will find ourselves introduced, by the Holy Spirit, into providentially ordered, Christologically configured situations in which we are enabled to live the life that Jesus has lived for us. This is why, so often, when we pray with the scriptures that we receive through the Church under the guidance of the Spirit, we discover, to our amazement, that we experience—seemingly by happenstance—situations that are akin to those that we have prayed with, situations in which we are offered a new way of living and loving by the Word that we have been given.