The mood of today’s gospel is very sad. Jesus is about to leave his disciples and friends. This particular scripture is a part of the long dialogue Jesus had with his disciples as he prepared them for his death, resurrection and ascension.
By listening to the readings for the last couple weeks, we see that the followers of Jesus are beginning to feel separation anxiety; the man they gave up everything to follow is about to leave them. They don’t really understand what is going to happen to Jesus, what is going to happen to them, and where they were going to go. Many of the disciples left their homes, their wives and families and their livelihood to follow Jesus. They no longer had a source of income, and were far away from the security and comfort of home.
When we are about to lose something that is valued, someone close, or someplace familiar we worry, become disagreeable or feel depressed. That is only human. I am sure that the disciples were feeling all of these – some kept it to themselves, and others, like Thomas, questioned and questioned. The mood around Jesus and the disciples must have been pretty despondent.
But Jesus left the disciples with a promise. In John 14:16, Jesus told the disciples that God would leave them a helper, a paraclete. In the ancient Bible, ‘paraclete’ is the name that Jesus gave to the Holy Spirit, in later versions this was translated as ‘advocate’. – a word that means comforter, advocate or one who walks with you. So the disciples then, and we for the last 2000 years and now, are not left alone.
- The Holy Spirit, that nameless and most mysterious part of the Trinity, is still and forever with us.
- That still small voice that comes into our hearts when we are the most overwhelmed or confused; that is the Holy Spirit.
- When you are the most befuddled and lost for answers, it comes to you – that is the Holy Spirit.
- When we are despondent, our hearts are broken and we don’t think we can go on, it’s the Holy Spirit that fills our hearts with love and encouragement that lets us know we can.
- When we see someone hurting or upset, needing comfort and we don’t know how to help, suddenly the right words begin to come and we find solace – that is the Holy Spirit.
- When we look in the faces of our grandchildren, when we are overcome with the beauty of springtime or the twinkling of a starry sky or the touch of a loved one’s hand, that is the Holy Spirit reassuring us ‘l am always with you’, even to the ends of the earth.
The Holy Spirit is always with us, even when we don’t acknowledge the presence. The Holy Spirit walks with us, leading, guiding and supporting us on our journey. The Holy Spirit may come in the form of a person or a spirit.
How many times, when you are at your lowest, does someone appear that walks the path with you and supports you as you dig your way up into the light? The paraclete hears us when we cry out and comes to prop us up.
A well-beloved spiritual originating from American slaves who were the most downtrodden and alone comes to mind:
- Sometimes I feel like a motherless child,
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child,
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child,
A long way from home,
A long way from home.
But Jesus goes on to say that he “will not leave us as orphans”. No matter how alone we feel, we are not alone.
We are a member of the family of Christ, protected eternally by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In this little phrase, Jesus promises that we will be not be onlookers to a love we can never possess; instead, he says ‘come in, and join. My family is gathered and your place is reserved.
Just as Jesus offers us a place in his family, so must be not leave others orphaned. As members of the family of Christ, we must not leave anyone on the outside looking in. We all know the phrase: “what you do for the least of these, you do for me”. Just as Jesus has not left us orphaned, so must we be our brother’s keeper. Does your intimate circle include those who are orphaned or disenfranchised or abandoned by the world?
Jesus also tells us that we should
- keep His commandments. (John 14:15)
In Matthew we are told that the greatest of the commandments is to love . . .
- Love God and love thy neighbor. (Matthew 22:38-39)
No matter what happens, what goes wrong, how remote God seems from us, Jesus assures us that we have a paraclete, a helper in the Holy Spirit that will always be with us. As long as we love God and our neighbors and keep his commandments, He and the Holy Spirit will always be with us. We will always be a part of the family of Christ.
We will never be alone!
Let us pray:
Holy Spirit, be with me today. Be my teacher, my guide, my counselor, my friend. Fill me with your gifts, especially the gifts of wisdom, discernment, knowledge, understanding, compassion, love, and awe in God’s presence. In all that I think, say, and do, let it be in accordance with your most holy and perfect will. I ask this in Jesus’ name. AMEN.
Delivered at Church of the Good Shepherd, Athens, OH 27 April 2006