May 17, 2020
I had a great visit with my Mom and Dad last week, at a “safe-distance” of course; they, sitting in a patio of their assisted living apartment, me in a lawn chair across the sidewalk at the edge of the parking lot, sipping on our hot chocolates in the chilly spring air. I realized, once again, how blessed I am to have both a mother and father still living. I know so well that many of you already know the transition of life when your parents die. You might be forty or sixty—or if you are lucky—even seventy years old, but when the generational ceiling between you and mortality is erased, life looks different. But by that time, while we mourn their loss, hopefully we will be well-grounded and stable in life.
In contrast, though, is the staggering number of children worldwide - more than 140 million, who have their parents, millions of those orphans now living on the streets. The thought of what life must look like to be left without parents at that young, vulnerable age is overwhelming. How disoriented life must appear! To be that alone in life must be terrifying.
Maybe that can help us capture the distortion, the fear, the view of life that would have accompanied the followers of Jesus when he died. Maybe that is what left them scattering or huddled for safety in the upper room, disoriented in their loss. And perhaps that is why Jesus, anticipating their chaos and fear, chose such reassuring words: “I will not leave your orphans.” Someone would be there. Someone would be by their side. Someone would stand with them. An advocate, a companion. The Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit would be the embodiment of the Motherly God who never forgets her children, the Fatherly God who stands guard in protection. The Holy Spirit would love them unconditionally, like Jesus did, a true shepherd.
Sometimes we don’t give a lot of thought or attention to the Holy Spirit, though, do we? Sure, He at least gets the shoulders of the “top, bottom, left, right” as we make the Sign of the Cross, and there might be an assumption of sorts of the Spirit’s presence, somehow standing guard in the background, I guess.
But to the disciples and to the early Church, still reeling from the sudden and unexpected absence of Jesus, that promise must have meant everything. They couldn’t imagine doing it alone. They couldn’t envision life without Jesus. But with that promise, with the grace and gift and power of the Holy Spirit, it was like Jesus never left. When they received the Holy Spirit - that was when they knew that it would be OK, they would never be strangers, they were not alone. They would always have a reason for hope. In the words of St. Peter: What was put to death in the flesh was brought to life in the Spirit.
Fortunately, most of us will not know what it means to be orphaned as children, to lose our parents until long after we are secure and solid in our life-path. But we do know what it is like to feel alone. We know what it is like to be divorced, to be diagnosed, to have our secret discovered and see the walls of security crumble around us. We do know what it is to be misunderstood, misquoted, misled, and find ourselves outside the circles we once enjoyed. We understand the feelings of empty, embarrassment, exclusion, when what we thought was secure seems to slip away. And in these days of the coronavirus we certainly know what it is like to be uncertain, unsure, disconnected and disoriented…and for many of you, to feel alone.
In these moments, perhaps more than any others, my friends, let us call upon the Holy Spirit to give us the reassurance that She is at our side, giving us a reason a reason for hope. To re-discover His presence, realizing that He has been with us all along. To resurrect the power and strength that was buried in the tomb and has come to life in the Spirit.
We are not alone. We not orphaned. We have not been abandoned. We never were.