Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sixth Sunday of Easter Year A

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Sixth Sunday of Easter Year A
Readings: Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; 1 Peter 3:15-18; John 14:15-21

Promise, waiting, Holy Spirit, yearning for belonging and continued care, are some of the phrases that help to focus on the central message of this Sunday. The central metaphor that highlights the message is that of an orphan waiting. In the Gospel, Jesus reassures us that he will not leave us orphans. When He is gone, the Holy Spirit will come to care for us, but he is yet to come. The Holy Spirit will come according to God’s plan and time, not ours. During my 20 years in Rome I spent the Easter Triduum in a parish on the outskirts of Verona, the home of the legendary Romeo and Juliet! There I had the opportunity to meet many orphaned children some of whom had lost parents because of death or incapacity. A good number had disability, not just physcically, but also a sense of abandonment and loneliness. One orphan girl stands out in my mind: Francesca. Her African mom had died in childbirth and her Italian dad had entrusted his tiny daughter to the parish orphanage. I watched Francesca grow up over the years. I recall when I first held Francisca, she cried so loudly that I gave her back to the woman caring for the orphans. As she got older, she kept her distance, even hiding from me. One day, when she was about four, I said Mass for orphans, and after Mass Francesca let me pick her up. I held her in front of me, looked into her wide, brown eyes and said, "Francesca, tu รจ mia figlia. Francisca, you are my daughter." She looked at me, then reached out and put her arms around my neck. Now, it seemed to me she had been waiting to find someone who would extend to her the love she was missing from her parents. Her embrace - in an instinctive way –was in search for the family Jesus would give her. Jesus tells us today that he will not leave us orphans. Sometimes we feel that way – alone and abandoned, on our own. Jesus invites us to open our hearts to love him and, if we do what he wants us to do, he will give us a family; a sense of belonging, sometimes in mysterious ways we never thought of.

Like Franscesca, we are waiting for someone to extend to us the parental love we miss, and like the disciples, we wait for the promise to be fulfilled. That is why Jesus in the Gospel today assures us that He will not leave us orphans after his ascension into heaven. He will ask the Father to give us another Advocate to be with us forever. The readings focus our attention on the coming of Christ's Spirit of Truth on the Church, the source of the Church's proclamation of the Christian message to the world. The role of the Holy Spirit in the mission of the Church from the earliest beginnings is confirmed in both the first and the second readings. In the Acts of he Apostles, Philip had gone to a Samaritan town to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. We read that the people were united in welcoming the message that Philip preached. On getting the news about the success of Philip, the apostles sent Peter and John from Jerusalem to Samaria, to pray over the neophytes and lay hands on them, "and they received the Holy Spirit". The message of the risen Lord will be kept alive and passed on from one generation to the next in this missionary spirit and action of the Church, by the help of the Holy Spirit, the advocate in times of opposition and trial. The Holy Spirit, in his own silent witness continues to secure the Church's success everywhere, even in most difficult moments of hostile attacks and trials. The message may be summed up in three points. 1) It is quite clear that the Holy Spirit has kept alive the faith and hope of Christians over these 2000 years in the midst of turmoil and trials. 2) At times, we too are like the little girl, Franscesca, waiting for someone to affirm to us that we are not abandoned and that we belong to a parish community that cares for us. 3) As we wait for the fulfilment of Christ’s promise, may our faith and hope be strengthened; may we be enabled to overcome trials in difficult moments, particularly when we find ourselves abandoned and under attack for the faith.

©2011 John S. Mbinda
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