I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.
In today's gospel, from John 16, Jesus is wrapping up his "pre-crucifixion" instruction and admits his disciples have a lot to learn, "I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now." However, he promises to send the Holy Spirit.
The philosopher John Macmurray remarked on our willingness to learn the truth. It's not as easy as you might think. The truth is something other than my beliefs, opinions, preferences and desires. It exists apart from me, and all my ideas about it bear only some resemblance to the Truth. It is always greater than the mind can comprehend.
The human being has the capacity to receive the Truth, and even to welcome it, but it is nonetheless alien to the receptive mind. We will often be disappointed either by reality or by our sorely limited ability to comprehend it.
Aware of our disability, Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit. The "Third Person of the Blessed Trinity" is the Truth and loves the Truth; he prepares our minds and hearts to receive it, which we must do with humility.
During the Festival of Faith in Louisville last month, Karen Armstrong reminded the gathering that compassion expects to suffer. This kind of compassion doesn't dole out excess wealth to the unfortunate. Rather, it recognizes that another's suffering is my own and I must respond to it as eagerly as I would were it my own. It doesn't matter who is hungry -- myself or someone else -- I feed the hungry. It doesn't matter who is cold, tired, homeless or naked -- myself or someone else -- I see to the need. Compassion does not act because it feels good to be nice; it is driven by a far deeper urgency.
Have I changed the subject? I was speaking of truth and now I speak of compassion. The subject is the same. Truth in action is mercy, and no other truth matters.
The disciples "could not bear" what they saw on the morrow. They fled from the Garden of Gethsemane even before the day broke. Mercy remains with the Lord as he remains with us, welcoming the truth that is almost merciless in its demands upon us.