If you were to read parts of the gospel today out of context, it would sound like an old-fashioned fire-and-brimstone sermon. But, of course, it’s not; it’s a description of three key roles of the Holy Spirit.
Our Lord’s disciples are coming to realise that Jesus won’t be with them forever. But Our Lord assures them that he will send the Holy Spirit, the “Advocate,” to take his place. So, what was this Advocate going to do for them? Our Lord lists three things, all of which apply to us as well.
First, the Holy Spirit comes to show us our sin—but not to accuse us or overwhelm us with guilt. Rather the opposite: even as he shows us our imperfections and our failures, he sets our hearts at rest by telling us how merciful God is.
That leads us to the Holy Spirit’s second role: to show us the righteousness of Christ. Since Our Lord is not walking with us in the flesh, the Holy Spirit speaks to our hearts about who Jesus is. He reveals Christ in the Scriptures, in the Sacraments, and in our private prayer and study. He shows us Our Lord’s justice, his mercy, his compassion, and his power.
Finally, the Holy Spirit comes to bring condemnation. But this condemnation is not directed at us. Rather, the Holy Spirit shows us that Satan is condemned and that all his plots and schemes are doomed to failure.
The Holy Spirit is at work in us all the time, even when we can’t sense him. He is the One who urges us to go to Confession when our conscience is weighing heavy on us. He is the One encouraging us to spend time with the Scriptures, or to be more attentive at Mass. He is the One who inspires us to live differently, one day at a time. Just as Our Lord assured his disciples that the Holy Spirit would be with them, so he assures us that the Holy Spirit is—and will always be—working in us.