John 16:7, 8, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you. And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.”
Remember that Jesus has spoken of this before, such as when the pharisees asked why the disciples didn’t fast, saying, “when the bridegroom leaves, then they will fast.” But here, Jesus says it is expedient that he leave. Why expedient? Wouldn’t they cling to Him if He remained? But He has given them a commission. As His leaving would move them to sadness, He promises to sent the paraclete. Here’s what Augustine says about this passage:
This He says not on account of any inequality between the Word of God and the Holy Ghost, but because the presence of the Son of man amongst them would impede the coming of the latter. For the Holy Ghost did not humble Himself as did the Son, by taking upon Him the form of a servant. It was necessary therefore that the form of the servant should be removed from their eyes; for so long as they looked upon that, they thought that Christ was no more than what they saw Him to be. So it follows: But if I depart, I will send Him unto you. But could He not send Him while here: Him Who, we know, came and abode on Him at His baptism, yea Him from Whom we know He never could be separated? What means then, If I go not away, the Comforter will not come to you, but, you cannot receive the Spirit, so long as you know Christ according to the flesh? Christ departing in the body, not the Holy Ghost only, but the Father, and the Son also came spiritually.
Christ had to die to reconcile the world to God. When Christ ascended, he brought humanity fully into divinity, and therefore could be closer than ever to the disciples. God wanted to have the Holy Spirit reveal this to them after Christ’s going away so that they would be motivated to spread the word to others instead of just staying with Christ in Palestine their whole lives.
Symbolically this teaching is important. In Catholic theology the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son; thus Jesus returned to the Father, and they sent the Holy Spirit to the Apostles. The Church is founded by Christ, but is the work of the Father and the Holy spirit. This might also be a good point to make in ecumenical dialogue with the Orthodox Church’s. The Holy Spirit comes from the Father and the Son; not from the Father through the Son as Orthodox Church’s teach. Even though there formula is partially true.
Interesting points all. Thanks
Your question is answered in John 7:39, “He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive. There was, of course, no Spirit yet, because Jesus had not yet been glorified.” (NABRE)
Christ’s glorification was in his Death, Resurrection and Ascension. The loving sacrifice enabled the Spirit to fully enter the world because now men had the grace to receive him.