I will not leave you orphans…
There are orphans all over the world, deprived of parents through war, disease, poverty and natural calamities. One estimate is that there are 143 million orphans in the world. That’s an overwhelming number and yet God promises to not leave us orphans. Why such discrepancy between this promise and the harsh reality of our world? In three letters, sin.
Sin keeps us from realizing this promise for others and ourselves. Where there is sin these crimes against humanity cut children off from their parents. At times it is the parents themselves who are sinning through addiction or abuse. At other times they are victims of violence, hunger and disease that they have no control over.
John Paul II spoke of ‘structures of sin’ in his encyclical Sollicitudo rei socialis (On Social Concern; see: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/index.htm) in order to address rampant social evils created by the two extremes of atheistic communism and liberal capitalism. Personal sin leads to social sin, which is “the true nature of the evil which faces us with respect to the development of peoples: it is a question of a moral evil, the fruit of many sins which lead to "structures of sin." To diagnose the evil in this way is to identify precisely, on the level of human conduct, the path to be followed in order to overcome it.” (37)
The path to overcome it is by following Jesus the Way. Jesus begins the gospel for today by saying, “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.” (Jn 14:15-17a) The gift of the Holy Spirit is conditional and can be lost or never attained due to not keeping Jesus’ commandments. And what are His commandments?
Jesus speaks in the plural here, but we can begin with the commandment that He describes as a “new” commandment, unique in its import, given His sacrifice. He said, “…love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” (Jn 13:34) Notice this huge ‘As’ that Jesus qualifies this commandment with. If He had only said, “Love one another” we might interpret it subjectively as meaning be nice to one another, polite, observing social decorum. But this “As” calls us to a radical self-giving, even self-sacrifice, for the sake of others, even others we don’t like, even others who are at least temporarily enemies!
This kind of love is impossible without God’s help. That’s why love of God and love of neighbor fit so well together. We need God to love our neighbor; we need to love our neighbor in order for our love for God to be authentic. We cannot approach God without a proper love for neighbor. Why? Because God loves them. As I said, He even loves our enemies. Not because they are enemies, nor because of any evil they might have done to us. He loves them because they are made in His image. Perhaps they have obscured His likeness because of sin, but that’s precisely why He came to save us, not because we were good.
This radical love of neighbor is necessary for the gift of the Holy Spirit that Jesus promises us. Pentecost is coming soon on June 12th. Are we ready to receive the Holy Spirit in a brand new way? Of course every reception of the Holy Eucharist is likewise an infusion of the Holy Spirit who is forever united with the Son. But are we receiving the Eucharist and our attendance at Mass with this in mind? The Lord desires us to be fully united with Him so that our “joy may be complete” (Jn 15:11). These coming weeks are a wonderful opportunity to receive this joy if you haven’t already.
To prepare for Pentecost the disciples gathered in prayer together with Mary “…in one place together.” Jesus had asked them not to depart from Jerusalem until they received the “promise of the Father”, the baptism “with the Holy Spirit”. (Acts 1:4-5, 14; 2:1) This was the first novena, nine days from the Ascension to the Feast of Pentecost. We too can prepare in a similar way. I’m printing here a prayer to the Holy Spirit that I would like to invite the whole parish to pray these nine days, beginning on Friday, June 2nd and ending on Saturday, June 11th. One can also add fasting or other sacrifices for this intention, that we as Catholic believers here at St. Stephen’s, would be fully baptized in the Holy Spirit, open to all the gifts that God has for us and living in the love of neighbor by which “all will know that you are my disciples.” (Jn 13:35)
Come Holy Spirithttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.
V. Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created.
R. And You shall renew the face of the earth.
Let us pray.
O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly
wise and ever enjoy His consolations. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Please recite the prayer above for nine days for the intention that our parish be sanctified, made holy according to God’s good will. Other novena prayers can be found at: http://www.ewtn.com/devotionals/pentecost/seven.htm
- ▼ May (4)