Most people like to get gifts. In today’s Gospel Jesus says that he’ll ask the Father and the Father will give us a gift, something called a paraclete. You are now the proud owner of a paraclete. However, sometimes you get a gift from a friend and you’re not sure of what it is, even after you open it, one might rightly wonder (what this paraclete is).
Breaking the word down into its parts helps. “Paraclete” is a Greek word and the “clete” part of it means to call out or yell. The “para” means vigorously. So “paraclete” means to call out vigorously. Now in some Bibles the word paraclete is translated into advocate or consoler. Those words are good, but somewhat churchy and really not earthy, the way that paraclete is in the original language. I think the closest English word we have for paraclete is “cheerleader.”
If you’ve ever played on a basketball or football team, you know that there’s such a thing as home field or court advantage – when you are on your home turf and when the stands are full of your fans cheering and screaming for you, you’re much more likely to play your best game and give it your best shot.
Today’s Gospel presents a stunning and delicious picture of God – God the cheerleader. Your biggest fan, according to scripture, is God. God shouting for you; God standing up and cheering when you do something well; God going into agony when you fall into the mud or get beaten; God calling and pushing onward; God telling you – you can do it – God the cheerleader.
There’s an important difference between God the cheerleader and human cheerleaders. When you and I are cheering for people from the stands, we might get so caught up in the excitement of the game we wish we could go right down there on the field and do something concrete to help. When I’m at a 49’er game and the 49’ers are behind I sometimes get carried away and would love a chance to stand next to whatever quarterback they have and help him throw the football. Well, you and I can’t do that, but God can. God does not remain an impassive observer in the stands while you and I make our way through the game of life. God gets so carried away that in a fit of enthusiasm he leaves the stands and becomes a member of the team. That’s the mystery of Jesus – Jesus our brother, Jesus a member of the human race, Jesus walking with us toward eternal life.
And as if that weren’t enough, Jesus says that he’s going to ask the Father and we’ll be given still another paraclete, still another cheerleader –the Holy Spirit, a little energy, something inside us that urges us on. Imagine it! Three cheerleaders totally full of love and concern for you, cheering you onward—God the Creator, cheering you from the distance, calling you forward; God the Son, cheering you as your brother; walking next to you; and God the Holy Spirit, cheering you from inside, kicking you in the rear when you need it, pulling you, pushing you, tugging you, congratulating you, forgiving you, telling you to keep on going and you can do it.
And if we believe in this cheerleading God, there’s only one thing for us to do – and that is to become cheerleaders ourselves. The vision of Jesus is for husbands to cheer wives and wives to cheer husbands; for old people to cheer young people and young people to cheer old people; for single people to cheer their friends and friends to cheer single people; for parishioners to sometimes cheer their Pastor, for all of us to cheer each other and forgive each other and lift each other up into new life.
I close. Today the scripture invites you to consider the delicious picture of God the cheerleader, God who is your best fan, God who is the one urging you onward. There are already enough boos in this world – that’s the voice of the world telling you, you can’t be any better, you’re just you. You’re stuck in that rut and that’s it. The world telling you to lie down and die. But stronger than the voice of the world, strong enough to bounce from one side of the galaxy to the other, is the strong and silent word of God coming to you from the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The voice of the cheerleader that says “You’re Terrific. I know you can do it. Get up – you’ll make it. HALLELUJHA!!”