Acts 15:1-2, 22-29; Rev. 21: 10-14, 22-23; John 14: 23-29
____(A special Prayer Request for me as I complete 15 years of priestly life)____
Dear friends! Four-year-old Marion West shouted and jumped for joy each noon when her mother came home from work on her lunch break. Her mother would pick her up at the neighbor’s. They’d hurry home, eat lunch, and play together. But Marion would become hysterical when her mother left again after lunch.
One day her mother stopped coming home for lunch. Marion was saddened. She wondered why her mother stopped coming. She wondered why her mother stopped eating and playing with her. She wondered if her mother still loved her as much as she once did.
Years later Marion learned that her mother still came home each noon. She sat at the kitchen window, eating her lunch and watching Marion play in the neighbor’s yard. All the while she longed to be with Marion. She longed to hold her close, especially when she cried. But it was for Marion’s good that she didn’t.
Eventually Marion adjusted to her mother’s absence and grew up in a healthy way.
Looking back on it now, Marion sees why her mother stopped coming. It was for her own good, for her own growth and development.
That story has something in common with today’s gospel. For in today’s gospel, Jesus says in effect to his disciples: “You are sad that I tell you I must leave you. You are distressed and fearful. But I tell you, it is better for you if I go. For then my Father will send the Holy Spirit to help you grow and develop in a new way.” In other words, Jesus is saying to his disciples that it’s time for him to leave them for a while. It’s time for them to begin a new phase in their spiritual growth. It’s time for them to grow and develop in a new way.
And the disciples did learn the new way. Today’s first reading is a proof. The first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, tells us how the Holy Spirit indwelling in the Church helped the apostles to solve a major doctrinal problem about the Gentiles becoming Christians, which shook the very foundation of the early Church.
Notice how the Apostles introduced their decision: ‘It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us…” This has always been the belief of the Church whenever the bishops gather in council together with the Holy Father. It is an important concept especially today when so many people think they do not need any authority of the Church telling them what’s right or wrong. Christ gave his Spirit to his Church to lead us to holiness. “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.”
What is true of four-year-old Marion and what is true of the disciples of Jesus is also true of us. There are times in our lives when God seems to abandon us. There comes times in our lives when God seems to leave us for a while.
Take our prayer, for example. Perhaps there was time when we experienced deep peace from prayer. But now we seem to draw little from it. Or take our faith. Perhaps there was time when our faith was strong enough to move mountains. But now it can hardly move a molehill. Or take our religious commitment. Perhaps we once derived great satisfaction in our involvement in the church activities. Now we derive very little joy from it. It’s as though God has abandoned us.
We begin to wonder if God still loves us as much as he once did, just as little Marion began to wonder about her mother’s love.
Truth is that God loves us very much. He loves us as much as he always did. He still longs to hold us close. But God knows that it’s for our own good that he doesn’t. God knows it’s time for us to begin a new phase in our spiritual growth; just as little Marion did and just as the disciples of Jesus did.
It’s time for us to realize that faith is not a feeling. It’s a commitment. It’s a surrender of ourselves to God. It’s saying yes to God, even though we don’t sense or feel his presence, just as little Marion didn’t sense or feel her mother’s presence.
It is time for us to realize that the motive for our religious involvement does not come, primarily, from the satisfaction we get from it. We get involved because Jesus asked us to. We get involved because Jesus taught us to. We get involved because Jesus himself did.