Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator
Orphans have a special place in God's heart. Children who are deprived of their parents through acts of violence such as war, through natural disasters such as the tornadoes we have witnessed in the past few weeks, and through disease such as the thousands left as orphans through the AIDS pandemic present us with one of the most heart rending situations we can imagine. When the Sinai Covenant was ratified by the Israelites in the desert at the base of the mountain, one of the provisions of the covenant explicitly cited the responsibility of the Chosen People to care for orphans. Down through the ages in modern Church history, we see the love and care that the various religious communities have expended in their care for parentless children.
So when this Sunday's Gospel has Jesus telling the disciples that he will not leave them orphans, we hear the early Christian community expressing its fear of what will happen now that Jesus has returned to the Father. Jesus counters their fears with a promise that he will return, that until he returns he will send the Spirit to guide, counsel, and care for them. This promise is the foundation of our hope that one day we will live with God in the new age.
Greek philosophy contends that historical eras are preceded by periods of great turmoil brought on by warfare and natural disaster. Recently the news media was filled with the story of a California preacher who saw our recent history as evidence that the end was near. Like so many before him, his predictions amounted to nothing more than empty promises.
However, in Jesus, we have a promise that is trustworthy. The Holy Spirit has been given to us so that we can preach hope in a hopeless world, so that we can devote ourselves to works of love in a world torn apart by hate. Love is the way of Jesus, and he himself has gone that way before us.
Today's Gospel tells us that if we are people of love, we will keep the commandments. Obedience is the consequence of love, not the prerequisite. We love because we have been loved. We obey because we love in return. As we draw closer to the Feast of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday, the best way to prepare for this Feast is by obeying the commandment to love others as Jesus has loved us.