In departing from His disciples, Jesus says that He will ask the Father to send the “Spirit of Truth” to those who “love Me and obey My commandments.” Thomas Aquinas understands this to mean, “You don't express your love for me by tears but by obedience to My commands, for this is a clear sign of love” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1908).
Thomas asks whether love and obedience are a necessary preparation for the Holy Spirit? St. Paul implies that the Spirit brings love, “The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Rom 5:5) and "For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God" (Rom 8:14). Do we deserve to receive the Spirit because we love the Son?
St. Thomas affirms:
No one can love God unless he has the Holy Spirit: because we do not act before we receive God's grace, rather, the grace comes first: ‘He loved us first’ (1 Jn 4:10). We should say, therefore, that the apostles first received the Holy Spirit so that they could love God and obey His commands. But it was necessary that they make good use, by their love and obedience, of this first gift of the Holy Spirit in order to receive the Spirit more fully. And so the meaning is, If you love Me, by means of the Holy Spirit, whom you have, and obey My commandments, you will receive the Holy Spirit with greater fullness (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1909).
Christ is our mediator:
Our Lord Jesus Christ, as a human being, is the mediator between God and humankind, as we see in 1 Timothy 2:5. And so as a human being He approaches God and asks heavenly gifts for us, and coming to us He lifts us up and leads us to God. And so, because He had already come to us, and by giving us the commandments of God had led believers to God, He still had to return to the Father and ask for spiritual gifts: ‘Approaching God by Himself He is able to save forever’ [Heb 7:25]. He does this by asking the Father; and He says this, I will pray the Father: ‘When He ascended on high He led a host of captives and He gave gifts to men’ (Eph 4:8) (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1910).
St. Thomas observes: “Note that it is the same person who asks that the Paraclete be given and who gives the Paraclete. He asks as a human being, He gives as God” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1910).
Thomas understands “Paraclete” to mean “consoler.” Thomas affirms that the Father will give the Paraclete, “but not without the Son.”
Thomas states, “The Holy Spirit… is the Consoler, since He is the spirit of love. It is love that causes spiritual consolation and joy: ‘The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy’ (Gal 5:22). The Holy Spirit is our advocate: ‘We do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words’”(Rom 8:26).
Thomas recognizes that John also says that Jesus is our advocate: “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteousness” (1 Jn 2:1). Thomas demonstrates that both the Son and the Spirit are consolers and advocates:
Yet the Son and the Holy Spirit are not consolers and advocates in the same way, if we consider the appropriation of persons. Christ is called an advocate because as a human being He intercedes for us to the Father; the Holy Spirit is an advocate because He makes us ask. Again, the Holy Spirit is called a consoler because He is formally love. But the Son is a consoler because He is the Word. The Son is a consoler in two ways: because of His teaching and because the Son gives the Holy Spirit and incites love in our hearts (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1912).
According to Thomas, when the Spirit is given, He is given forever:
The Spirit is truly given because it is given forever. Thus he says, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth. When something is given to a person only for a time, this is not a true giving; but there is a true giving when something is given to be kept forever. And so the Holy Spirit is truly given because He is to remain with them forever. He is with us forever: in this life He enlightens and teaches us, bringing things to our mind; and in the next life He brings us to see the very reality (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1914).
Thomas questions whether we receive the Spirit in the same way that Christ received the Spirit. Thomas answers: “Certain gifts of the Holy Spirit are necessary for salvation; these are found in all the saints and always remain in us, as charity, which never leaves (1 Cor 13:8), since it will continue into the future. Other gifts are not necessary for salvation, but are given to the faithful so they can manifest the Spirit: ‘To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good’” (1 Cor 12:7) (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1915).
The Spirit gives the gift of lasting charity to the saints but “It is peculiar to Christ that the Spirit is always with Him by the second type of gift, for Christ always has a plenitude of power to work miracles and to prophesy, and so on” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1915).
Thomas explains that the Spirit is “a most excellent gift because He is the Spirit of truth” (1916). He is called “Spirit” “… to show the subtlety or fineness of his nature, for the word ‘spirit’ is used to indicate something which is undiscoverable and invisible. And so what is invisible is usually referred to as a spirit. The Holy Spirit also is undiscoverable and invisible” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1916).
Thomas recalls the words of the Gospel: "The Spirit blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes" (Jn 3:8).
“Spirit” also indicates power: “He is also called the Spirit to indicate His power, because He moves us to act and work well. For the word ‘spirit’ indicates a certain impulse, and that is why the word spiritus can also mean the wind” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1916).
He is the “Spirit of Truth” because “This Spirit proceeds from the Truth and speaks the truth, for the Holy Spirit is nothing else than Love” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1916).
Thomas reflects that the Spirit proceeds from the Son, who is Truth:
The Holy Spirit leads to the knowledge of the truth, because He proceeds from the Truth, who says, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life’ (Jn 14:6). In us, love of the truth arises when we have conceived and considered truth. So also in God, Love proceeds from conceived Truth, which is the Son. And just as Love proceeds from the Truth, so Love leads to knowledge of the truth: ‘He [The Holy Spirit] will glorify Me because He will receive from Me and declare it to you’ (Jn 16: 14).
Thomas recalls the words of Paul: "No one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor 12:3). Thomas comments: “It is a characteristic of the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth because it is love which impels one to reveal His secrets: ‘I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you’ (15:15).
Jesus says that the world cannot receive the Spirit. Thomas reflects on those who love the “world”: “As long as they love the world they cannot receive the Holy Spirit, for He is the love of God. And no one can love, as his destination, both God and the world: ‘If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him’ (1 Jn 2:15).
Jesus declares that the world neither sees nor knows the Spirit. Thomas considers why this is the case: “For spiritual gifts are not received unless they are desired… And they are not desired unless they are somehow known. Now there are two reasons why they are not known. First, because one does not want to know them; and secondly, because one is not capable of such knowledge” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1919).
Thomas refers to Augustine: "Worldly love does not have invisible eyes which alone can see the invisible Holy Spirit" (Treatise on John, 74, ch. 4). Paul affirms: "The sensual person does not perceive those things pertaining to the Spirit of God" [1 Cor 2:14].
Believers will be given the Spirit: “The Holy Spirit is given to believers: he says, you, who are moved by the Holy Spirit, will know Him: ‘Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God’ (1 Cor 2:12). This is because you scorn the world: ‘We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen’ (2 Cor 4:18).
Jesus says that the Spirit will dwell in them: “Note how intimate His indwelling is, for He will be in you, that is, in the depths of your heart: ‘I will put a new Spirit within them’ (Ez 11:19) (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1920).
Jesus declares “I will come to you” (Jn 14:18). Jesus came in the Incarnation: "Christ Jesus came into the world" (1 Tim 1:15). There are two other bodily comings. The first is between the Resurrection and the Ascension. The second is when Jesus comes in judgment: "This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11).
Thomas declares: “His third coming is spiritual and invisible, that is, when He comes to His faithful by grace, either in life or in death” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1923).
Jesus announces “I will come to you” (Jn 14:18) and "I will see you again" (Jn 16:22). These are the three ways: “Again, I will come to you at the end of the world: ‘The Lord will come to judge’ [Is 3:14]. And again I will come at your death to take you to Myself: ‘I will come again and will take you to Myself’ (Jn 14:3). And again, I will come to you, visiting you in a spiritual way: "We will come to Him and make our home with Him" (Jn 14:23).”
Jesus tells the disciples “I live and you shall live” (Jn 14:19). Thomas comments: “I will live after the resurrection: ‘I died, and behold I am alive for evermore’ (Rev 1:18). Thomas reminds us of Paul’s words: “’We shall always be with the Lord’ (1 Thess 4:17).
Thomas interprets Jesus to mean: “You will see me because I live and you will live also. This is like saying: Just as I have a glorified life in My soul and in My body, so will you ‘Christ will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body’ (Phil 3:21). He says this because our glorified life is produced by the glorified life of Christ: ‘For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive’ (1 Cor 15:22).”
Thomas understands Jesus’ words, “On that day you will know that I am in the Father” (Jn 14:20) to be referring to the day of the Resurrection: “… they will know this by the knowledge of faith, because then having seen that He has arisen and is among them, they will have a most certain faith about Him, especially those who would receive the Holy Spirit, who would teach them all things” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1927).
Jesus told the disciples: "The Father who dwells in Me does the works" (Jn 14:10) and "He who believes in Me will also do the works that I do" (Jn 14:12). Thomas asks whether this means that Jesus is less than the Father just as the disciples were less than Jesus? Thomas responds: “When Christ says, I am in my Father, He means by a consubstantiality of nature: ‘I and the Father are one’ (Jn 10:30); ‘And the Word was with God’ (Jn 1:1).
The statement, “’you in e’ means that the disciples are in Christ.” Something protected or shielded is in the thing, such as a thing contained in a container or the affairs of a kingdom in the hands of the king. The Acts of the Apostles states of God, "in Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). Thomas explains Jesus’ words “And I in you, remaining within you, and acting and indwelling within you by grace” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1930). This is what the Letter to the Ephesians stated: "that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith" (Eph 3:17) and what Paul was asserting: "You desire proof that Christ is speaking in me" (2 Cor 113:3).
Thomas acknowledges St. Hilary’s explanation:
And you in me, that is, you will be in me through your nature, which I have taken on: for in taking on our nature He took us all on: He did not take hold of the angels, but He did take hold of the seed of Abraham" (Heb 2:16). And I in you, that is, I will be in you when you receive my sacrament, for when one receives the body of Christ, Christ is in him: ‘He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him’ (Jn 6:56). (De Trinitate, 8).
Thomas offers another explanation: “and you in me, and I in you,” that is, by our mutual love, for we read: "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him" (1 Jn 4:16).
Jesus proclaims: “He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me.” Thomas reflects:
Note that true love is love which appears and proves itself by actions: for love is revealed by its actions. Since to love someone is to will that person something good and to desire what this person wants, one does not seem to truly love a person if he does not accomplish the will of the beloved or do what he knows this person wants. And so one who does not do the will of God does not seem to truly love Him (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1932).
Thomas refers to Augustine’s words: “The person who keeps the commandments in his memory and keeps them in his life, who has them in his speech and keeps them in his conduct, who has them by hearing them and keeps them by doing them, who has them by doing and persisting in doing them, this is one who loves Me" (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1933) (Tractate on John, 75, ch. 5).
Thomas questions whether Jesus’ words, “He who loves Me will be loved by My Father” could indicate that God loves us because we love Him. He answers: “Assuredly not; for we read: ‘not that we loved God, but because He has first loved us’ (1 Jn 4:10).
Thomas refers back to Jesus’ teaching, "He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me." Thomas explains: “This does not mean that one keeps the commandments and as a result of this loves. But rather, one loves, and as a result of this, keeps the commandments” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1934).
In the same way, we should say here that one is loved by the Father, and as a result he loves Christ, and not that one is loved because he loves. Therefore, we love the Son because the Father loves us. For it is a characteristic of true love that it draws the one loved to love the one who loves him: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love, and therefore I have drawn you having compassion on you’ (Jer 31:3) (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1934).
Thomas notices that the Father’s love is with the Son’s love: “Because the Father's love is not without the Son's love, since it is the same love in each, ‘Whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise’ (Jn 5:19).”
Thomas asks why Jesus says “I will love him” since God loves from all eternity. Thomas concludes: “We should answer that love, considered as being in the divine will, is eternal; but considered as manifested in the accomplishment of some work and effect, is temporal. So the meaning is: and I will love him, that is, I will show the effect of My love, because I will manifest myself to him: for I love in order to manifest Myself” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1935).
God reveals Himself to those whom He loves:
Note that one's love for another is sometimes qualified and sometimes absolute. It is qualified when one wills the other some particular good; but it is absolute when one wills the other all good. Now God loves every created thing in a qualified sense, because he wills some good to every creature, even to the demons, for example, that they live and understand and exist. There are particular goods. But God loves absolutely those to whom he wills all good, that is, that they have God Himself. And to have God is to have truth, for God is Truth. But truth is had or possessed when it is known. So God, who is Truth, truly and absolutely loves those to whom He manifests Himself. (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1936).
Thomas responds to the question whether the Father will reveal Himself:
For the Son manifests Himself and the Father at the same time, because the Son is the Word of the Father: "No one knows the Father except the Son" (Mt 11:27). If in the meantime the Son manifests Himself to anyone in some way, this is a sign of God's love. And this can be a reason why the world will not see Him, because He will not manifest Himself to it because it does not love Him (1937).
Denis Vincent Wiseman, O.P.
The quotations from St. Thomas Aquinas’ Commentary on the Gospel of St. John were done by R.F. Larcher, O.P. The full text may be found on the web site of the Dominican House of Studies, Washington, D.C.: http://dhspriory.org/thomas/