In 1995 Paramount Studios put out a film which took the world by storm: I am of course talking about the movie Casper, whose main character, funnily enough, is Casper the Friendly Ghost. The name is a very good one, because, although he is a ghost, Casper is about as terrifying and dangerous as an attack with a blueberry muffin. And this is, in my mind, Casper’s problem – he is so almost desperately friendly that he might need to lose his haunting licence altogether.
As 21st century Christians, we tend to think of the Holy Spirit in the same way. That the Holy Ghost is like the Friendly Ghost, a sort of innocent transparent gaia-like powder-puff of love who floats around the cosmos being vaguely nice to everything. Today’s readings give us a radically different description of the Holy Spirit:- of a glorious co-eternal person, Absolute Truth, perfect and true love, who makes true love possible. Someone who is so personally interested in us that whether we care or not, is constantly assisting us to do good: the advocate. Someone we can never hide from or be isolated from, who we can never be without: I shall ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever, the Spirit of truth.
And finally, someone whose basic teaching is not vague and unknown – this would make the Holy Spirit someone weak. Weakness, that is for relativism. But the Holy Spirit’s basic teaching is crystal clear – the commandments. This can sound strange – surely he is the Spirit of love, not the Spirit of rules? But of course, as we all know, the commandments are the basics of love. If someone loves me, they won’t steal from me. If someone loves me, they won’t murder me. If someone loves me, they won’t be unfaithful to me. And if I love God, then I will spend time with him, I will respect his name, and I will treat him like God – the number one in my life. And this is why the Church asks us as parents to teach our children the commandments: they are the basics of love, without which full, true love is never possible.