today's readings are Acts 8: 5-8, 14-17; Psalm 66; 1 Peter 3: 15-18 and John 14: 15-21
Today’s gospel passage is taken from the section of St. John’s gospel called the Last Supper Discourse, which goes from chapters 13 through 17. Now while this discourse certainly isn’t a legal document, many scripture scholars often refer to these 5 chapters as Jesus’ “Last Will and Testament”. After sharing the Last Supper with the Apostles, Jesus knows full well that He will, in a few hours’ time, be arrested, tortured, crucified, and die. So, Jesus uses those final hours to share some wonderfully profound thoughts with His Apostles, and of course, with us. Now while He doesn’t leave any property or money to us in His “Last Will and Testament”, Jesus does tell us that He will not leave us orphaned. And what will He and the Father give to us so that we will not be orphaned? The Advocate, the Holy Spirit. That same Holy Spirit who came upon the Apostles at Pentecost, a coming we will be celebrate in two weeks. That same Holy Spirit which will be poured out onto our young people who will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation next Saturday. That same Holy Spirit that guides us and leads us in all aspects of our lives. Throughout the Last Supper Discourse, Jesus repeatedly says, “Yes, I’m going, but don’t worry, for the Spirit will take care of you. I’m going, but He’s coming.”
I want to show you a small stained-glass image I received 25 years ago from the stained-glass artist Brother Eric of the Taize community of France. This is an image of a small child, with an adult standing behind him. The adult’s right hand is held by the right hand of the child. With the other hand, the adult appears to be gently supporting the child. The child looks at us with a serene look. His facial expression is one of contentment – all is good – because I have someone special who is taking care of me.
But there is a mystery surrounding this image. Who is the child? And who is the adult? For I was never told by Brother Eric. Over the years I have prayed with this sacred image. For a while I thought that perhaps the child is Isaac, and the adult is Abraham his father. Later, I thought that the child might be the boy Jesus, with the adult being either Joseph or Mary. But more and more I am convinced that the child is anyone of us. And who is the one behind the child? The Holy Spirit. Allow me to explain why I believe it is the Holy Spirit.
A very wise priest once shared with me that the Holy Spirit is the way God holds hands with us. Sometimes, like a little child, we trustingly and willingly grab onto that hand. Other times, like a rebellious older child, we feel that we don’t need to do so and so we let go. But one thing for sure. The Spirit never stops offering His hand to us. He never walks away from us. Always offering His presence and His 7-fold gifts that serves us so well in life.
Jesus promised then, and still promises us now, the never-ending presence of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, in our lives. And the Spirit hasn’t gone away. We first received Him in our baptism, and then again in our confirmation. And those seven gifts of His – wisdom, understanding, counsel, fear of the Lord, piety, knowledge, and courage – do you think you can use them? Use them? Man, I can’t get enough of them!
In my life, like in your lives, there has been times of trials and tribulations, times of suffering and grief, and of course times of joy and peace. So many times, I have thought that I was strong enough and wise enough and courageous enough to get by through life on my own. Inevitably, I fell flat on my face. But then I wake up and I realize that I can’t do this on my own. I realize, just like you, how much I need God. I need God the Father. And I need the Son, Jesus Christ. And I most definitely need the One who holds my hand and leads me and guides me and sustains me through life – the Holy Spirit. I am so grateful for the presence of the Spirit in my life.
I hope and pray that you are, too.
Two more weeks to Pentecost. I can’t wait. Veni Sancte Spiritus. Come, Holy Spirit.