Gospel – John 14:15-21
Jesus said to his disciples:
“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 always,
the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept,
because it neither sees nor knows him.
But you know him, because he remains with you,
and will be in you.
I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
In a little while the world will no longer see me,
but you will see me, because I live and you will live.
On that day you will realize that I am in my Father
and you are in me and I in you.
Whoever has my commandments and observes them
is the one who loves me.
And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”
Reflection on the Gospel
Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.
In the Gospel reading from John, Jesus makes a far-reaching promise: “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” When he was young Jesus studied the scriptures including passages where he learned the mandate given in the Pentateuch to take care of the widow and the orphan. [see Psalm 82:3- “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed and Exodus 22:22- “You shall not afflict any widow or orphan.”]. The Gospel of Luke recalls an instance when he read aloud in the temple the passage from Isaiah 35 telling ‘…. that the poor would have the good news preached to them,’ and he proclaimed his personal commitment to do that: “today this passage is being fulfilled in your hearing.” [Luke 4:21]. The promises became a reality through his own actions. He cared for the widow of Naim, raising her son from the dead. He brought the children close to him to teach and care for them saying “Whoever receives a child in my name receives me.” [Mt.18:5]. And, he reminded his followers: “… to the extent that you did it to one of the least of these, you did it unto Me.” [Mt.25:45]
What is the meaning today of Jesus’ words I will not leave you orphans? On the one hand, we can understand them as Jesus’ desire to abolish all situations where there are orphans. But, could the words of the gospel come alive now in the same way that the words of Isaiah did for Jesus? As we read them, might we not consider that we are the very persons through whom they will be fulfilled? Can we say about offering relief to orphans that ‘today this passage is being fulfilled in your hearing?’ The reasons why children become orphans are myriad and news of them is reported daily in newspapers while commentators tell of violence and wars that will yield even more orphans and homeless. Is not the message of Jesus in the Gospel a call to each of us who have been made new in the Resurrection of Jesus to be partakers and bearers of the promise these words contain? Jesus now risen in us is the one will not allow there to be orphans, who will be present to those living as orphans, who will find ways to accompany the fatherless/motherless, and to seek out and help resolve the underlying causes of these conditions. Jesus alive in us will find new ways to be ‘a home’ for the homeless, to be a refuge for the abandoned, to band together and unite lives and voices to speak out and to act on behalf of those who have been left without parents, forced to be orphans and refugees.
My parents modeled for me making this promise of Jesus come alive. During the course of their married life they offered our home as a place to stay for well over 50 different people, several from outside the country, others in transition, some needing a place to stay during an internship or after losing their home. I recall an event that happened after the death of Martin Luther King, when there was a peaceful rally in Washington DC and those gathered formed ‘Resurrection City’. One night, an announcement on the evening news reported that many of the participants needed a place to rest and gave a call-in number for any who might offer them lodging. My parents called in and gave some of them a place to stay that night. Through their actions they made a reality the promise of Jesus: “I will not leave your orphans.”
Jesus living in the hearts of teachers will care for students and colleagues who deal with losses and for their parents or friends who experience illness or tragedy and seek support in times of transition. The resurrected Jesus living within each believer and extending compassion for the ‘widow and the orphan’ is fulfilling these promises made during this Last Supper conversation.
May this Easter Season bring us the light of the Holy Spirit and may that Spirit of God fill our hearts and keep us open to the surprises and invitations that come to us ‘in the breaking of the bread’ to participate ever more fully in the life of the Resurrected Jesus.
Sister M. Catherine Mindling, RSM
St. Johns College High School – Chevy Chase, DC
Saint John Baptist de La Salle – Pray for us.
Live, Jesus, in our hearts – Forever.