Catholic Faith: Blog
This Catholic Faith Blog is Maintained by the Catholic Rebuttals Research Team. Here You Will Find Responses to Reader's Questions, Catholic Commentary and Other Resources!
Why did Jesus say before the Ascension, "If I do not go, the Spirit will not come.”? Wasn't the Holy Spirit present at the Conception of Jesus and throughout his ministry? I would enjoy getting some insight into this question. Many thanks! Leo L.
Great question! What you are referencing here is Jesus’ Departure; Coming of the Advocate, detailed in the Gospel of John, Chapter 16. First, let’s make it clear that The Holy Spirit did exist prior to the birth of Jesus, and the Spirit has always been fully present with Him. Scripture, as well as the Catechism demonstrate very clearly that Jesus was conceived “by the power of the Holy Spirit” (CCC 484). It is important to note that though the Spirit was with Him, the Spirit has not always been present with His Church. Let me explain further.
Do you remember when Jesus said to, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?” (John 20:29)? Even Paul said that “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:6-7). I’m sure that you would agree that if Jesus were still walking around with us today, it would not require much faith to believe in Him. Will we believe in Him when we come to our final resting place, the throne of the Most High God (beatific vision)? Of course we will! In heaven, faith will naturally vanish as fact is proven in front of our very eyes. For this reason, I believe Jesus had to ascend. Jesus ascended from this earth so that we could exercise our faith. We exercise our faith with the power of the Holy Spirit so that we can prove our loyalty and worthiness of heaven. Jesus said, “And [behold] I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Jesus left this earth so that the Spirit could testify through men.
God the Father was first revealed in the Old Testament. Throughout the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit touched those chosen to prophesize about the coming of the Messiah. Jesus was not fully revealed until the Incarnation, His mission, passion, death and resurrection. “From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:16).
Wherever Jesus is, the Trinity is present. Throughout scripture, Jesus explained that He and The Father are one – if you see Jesus, you see The Father (John 10:30,38). Upon His ascension The Paraclete would come to guide and counsel The Church. Holy Spirit has always been present throughout God’s revelation to man. However, the Lord has revealed himself in parts (stages) over time. He promised Adam to put enmity between the seed of the woman and the serpent; this foreshadows Jesus (Genesis 3:15). Similar to the Lord’s revelation, the promise of a Messiah is revealed to us in stages via many other covenants (Abraham, David, etc.). Each covenant was increasingly intense, revealing more and more of God’s plan of salvation. After the ascension, The Spirit came to us intensified, and fully revealed Jesus as the salvation for all mankind. This ended the Lord’s revelation to mankind, and is known as “The Final Covenant.” Jesus said, “You heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe (John 14:28-29).” Upon the full revelation of the Holy Spirit, the people of God enter a new age known as the Church age (John 15:26). Jesus also said, “I will not leave you orphans” (John 14:18). He knows our weaknesses and human limitations, we cannot do it alone. Therefore, He promised to send us The Spirit to dwell in our hearts as we await His second coming or our own death. The Spirit is made present to those who believe that they are the temple of the Spirit.
In Short: Jesus had to ascend so that the Holy Spirit would descend, in full intensity. The Spirit had to descend so that his disciples could believe in Jesus and his word - even when Jesus was gone and their faith was shaken. His words come to pass as proof to what he says is trustworthy upon His believers - this strengthened the disciples to do great works of faith. These works of faith evangelize Jesus’s message (salvation) to all those called to be saved (humanity), but not all will go. It’s sort of like when your mom and dad teach you how to do something, but you really can’t prove yourself effective until they walk away and you do it ‘all by yourself.’ Jesus completely understands our humanity.