Friday, April 09, 2010

Divine Mercy, Girard, and the Paraklete

Matthew Hanley at The Catholic Thing:
A key question then becomes: how should we respond once we have rightly accused ourselves? The renowned anthropologist Rene Girard (in his books The Scapegoat and I See Satan Fall Like Lightning) explores the phenomenon of accusation in tandem with a rich and fascinating explication of the term Paraclete. Some might recognize it as one of several appellations for the Holy Spirit, like the Comforter, and perhaps assume that they are all interchangeable.

But Girard argues that the most precise meaning of Paraclete in the original Greek is a “defender of the accused,” akin to a defense attorney in a court of law. The lawyerly language becomes more illuminating when we discover that the word Satan referred, in the original Hebrew, to an “accuser before a tribunal.” (Diabolos in Greek has the same connotation). In other words, Satan plays the role of the prosecuting attorney, against whom the Paraclete (first Jesus while he was on earth and then the Holy Spirit) takes up our defense.

This of course is not to say we have no guilt, no need of redemption – quite the opposite. The Paraclete at once makes us aware of our faults, in order to spur conversion, and acts as our greatest Advocate. Dwelling on our own faults – even grave ones – cannot be the end of the story (even if recognizing them is a necessary beginning). That would be to listen too much to the Accuser and not enough to our Advocate.

Without trust in Jesus to redeem us, we stand perpetually accused and unconverted, in a no man’s land of despair. Jesus tells St. Faustina quite plainly: “Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy.” Girard’s words also seem especially timely for the feast of the Divine Mercy this Sunday: “the time has come for us to forgive one another. If we wait any longer there will not be time enough.”

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