This homily is based on John 14:15-21.
I grew up in my father’s movie house, where I spent most of my childhood. It was there that I lost him: I was no more than 10, and when my father died, my childhood ended quite unceremoniously. I was already an adult when I lost my mother, but having been traumatized as a child by my father’s death, I had winced often enough at the prospect of being completely orphaned that when it finally happened, I was mostly numb.
And so today, when I hear our Lord promise us in the Gospel that he will not leave us orphans, it means something to me. I know that he understands what he’s talking about. I remember what it’s like to lose a parent–to climb into bed at night feeling alone, uncertain, and afraid, only to wake up the next morning with the exact same feelings. An orphan knows what it means to be inconsolable.
It makes such a difference to me that our Lord knows what he’s talking about. Tradition tells us that he lost his foster father Joseph by the beginning of his Public Ministry. Our Lord understands what it means to lose someone you love.
Perhaps this is why he goes out of his way to reassure his disciples; he realizes that he will leave them very soon. Remember, these words are spoken during the Last Supper, before his arrest, on the very night before his death on the cross. He promises his disciples that in his absence, he will send the Holy Spirit to “be with them always.” How reassuring that our Lord comforts us not with empty secondhand platitudes, but heartfelt firsthand assurances because he has ”been there, done that,”
The Lord can teach us a few things about the art of consoling. It’s an important art when you think about it because this world has a way of orphaning people. Life happens, and we lose limbs, loves, lives. As a result, we occasionally can’t help but feel estranged from God, orphaned by Him.
Today the Lord reminds us that thanks to his Advocate, the Holy Spirit, the Consoler, nothing can be farther from the truth. Today the Lord tells us that if we love him, we will do as he commands us, and that should include sharing His Spirit of Consolation with others whenever we can. We may as well learn how to take care of one another, and sometimes it takes so little from us–just share a smile, lend an ear, give someone a much-needed pat on the back–but it means so much to those who need the support and encouragement. Let us be our Lord’s fellow consolers of our neighbors, and the best way to begin is to remember that we all of us are fellow sufferers. As the Lord has shown us, the deepest of compassions comes from knowing pain.