The Godfather Meets the Holy Spirit
As we approach Pentecost, it’s a fair time to ask, “Who is the Holy Spirit?” For an answer, we turn to The Godfather.
In John, chapter 14, Jesus tells his disciples he would be sending the Holy Spirit.
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. … But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. (John 14:15-16, 26)
In the biblical Greek he says he is sending a “Paraclete.”
We see this translated not only as “advocate,” but also as “helper” or “comforter” or “counselor.” But the word “paraclete” or “parakletos“ carries more specifically the notion of a legal advocate.
This leads us to another word. One that combines this notion of a legal advocate with that of helper and counselor. In fact, it even adds a close, personal relationship, casting the Holy Spirit as one who is like a brother. And we have Hollywood — or at least Godfather author Mario Puzo — to thank. The word is “consigliere.”
Cue Godfather music.
Tom Hagen, Consigliere for the Corleone Family
Consider Tom Hagen, consigliere for the Corleone Family in The Godfather and Godfather II. The consigliere, played by Robert Duvall, was more than a lawyer or legal advocate. He was an adviser and counselor. He represented the Corleones’ interests. A fixer. A helper. He helped comfort the family after the attempted assassination of Vito Corleone and the murder of Sonny Corleone. He helped arrange safe travel for Michael Corleone when he got in trouble.
Further, he was like a brother, having been raised as part of the family after being discovered by Sonny in an alley as a young boy. You could say the consigliere was invited into their lives.
“But Al, how can you say the Holy Spirit in me is like an adviser to mobsters and killers?” Don’t you remember Jesus talking about murder in your heart? As my actress wife would say, “Aaaaannnnnnd SCENE.”
Making the Peace
There’s one element of the consigliere’s job that truly echoes the Holy Spirit. In The Godfather, Haden is asked by a rival mob boss to help “make the peace” with the Corleone Family. Isn’t that precisely how the Holy Spirit works in our lives? To “make the peace”? It is through his work that we find the “peace that passes all understanding.” It is through the Holy Spirit that we find the courage to “make the peace” with those we have wronged. And it is through the Holy Spirit that we find the strength to forgive, to “make the peace” with those who have harmed us.
How in the world did family members of those massacred in the Charleston church shooting address with such love and forgiveness the unrepentant murderer mere days after the atrocity? Romans 5:5 tells us: “Hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
We killed His Son, yet He did not exact revenge. Instead, He raised His Son and sent us the Holy Spirit, so that we would have in us the same ability to forgive and love. To heal. To have peace.
Right after telling his disciples His Father would be sending the paraclete, the legal advocate — the consigliere — Jesus said, “Peace I leave you, my peace I give you.” (John 14:27)
Jesus has offered us the Holy Spirit. That Holy Spirit comes to makes the peace. It’s an offer we can’t refuse.