Today we depart from the usual initial focus on the Gospel. Instead we begin with the “Alleluia Verse,” frequently overlooked because of its being sandwiched between two Alleluias. The words, “I will not leave you orphans” (John 14:18) on close inspection seem strange as we realize that they are being addressed to adults. In our popular imagination, orphans are minors or children. However, the Greek word which has been translated as “orphan” means “comfortless” or “abandoned”; knowing this can deepen our appreciation of the thread that ties our Scripture together.
At the last supper, Jesus, aware that the foundation of the disciples’ lives would be shaken in the next few days, wanted to assure them that the bottom would not disappear with his death. He knew there was something greater in store for their future and mission. In John’s Gospel we hear Jesus praying for their protection, knowing full well that the “world,” that is, the forces of evil, would conspire to attack them. This safeguarding, this protection that Jesus had initiated would be continued through the Spirit.
Our other readings give witness to the workings of the Spirit. Though Acts has not yet recounted the dramatic coming of the Spirit, we recognize the Spirit quietly at work in the replacement of Judas. From Paul’s letters we know that there were more than twelve apostles. Judas’ replacement is essential. There must be twelve apostles to demonstrate the continuity of the Covenant given to the twelve tribes of Israel. The casting of lots was the community’s method of letting the decision be guided by the Spirit.
Besides guidance in community decision-making, the Spirit is actively at work in the lives of Jesus’ individual followers. John’s letter reminds us of our calling and obligation to love one another. It is only through the gift of the Spirit that we are able to love one another as Jesus has loved us.
In one short week we will celebrate the feast of Pentecost. Our remembering and celebrating are promise-filled actions. As we remember and celebrate, God is present doing again and anew what God did on the first Pentecost. May we remember Jesus’ promise that he neither abandons us nor leaves us comfortless. These coming days are opportunities for reflection on our lives and world to see what specific gifts of the Spirit are needed. Let us pray for these gifts and for each other that May 17, 2015 will truly be a new Pentecost for our world.
—Jean Flannelly, SC
After more than 25 years preparing men and women for ordained and lay ministry in the Church, Sister Jean currently serves as Executive Director for Mission at the College of Mount Saint Vincent in Riverdale, NY. She also continues to minister in adult spirituality and adult faith formation through workshops and spiritual direction.