Homily for May 29, 2011: 6th Sunday of Easter

Back in the 1940s, a father found himself spending one too many Saturday afternoons at a California amusement park with his two young daughters.  He’d spend a couple hours on a park bench, reading the paper or watching the skies for signs of rain, mostly feeling bored.  And he would look around and see dozens of other parents doing the exact same thing, while their children rode the carousel.  And he thought: wouldn’t it be great if there was a place where parents and children could go on the rides together, and everyone would have a good time?

That father was Walt Disney.  And the empire he created from that idea now stretches around the world.  By one estimate, more than 600 million people have visited the original park he created, Disneyland, and countless millions more have gone to Disney World in Florida.

Last week, my wife and I spent some time down there in Orlando, and you can see Walt Disney’s idea is still very much alive.  It’s a place, first and foremost, for families. And it’s a place to watch families. Everybody does everything together.  Fathers pushing strollers, mothers dragging toddlers, kids fussing over the heat or wanting a hot dog or crying over an outrageously expensive souvenir.  Emotional meltdowns are not uncommon.  It can be frantic and hectic and exhausting. One of the pictures I took outside of Pirates of the Caribbean showed a line of baby strollers stretching as far as the eye could see.

In Disney World, you see up close what it means to be a parent, but also what it means to be a child — to be overwhelmed by crowds and confusion, terrified by people with big rubber heads.

But for a child, there is also the security of realizing you aren’t alone. One of the most common refrains you hear, on the buses or the rides, “Please take small children by the hand.” There is the sure knowledge that there is always a hand to hold. Someone is looking out for you.

That, I think, is the kind of comfort that Jesus offers his followers in this Sunday’s gospel.

Jesus offered this promise – an assurance to all of us who might be afraid or overwhelmed by things we can’t understand.

“I will not leave you orphans,” he said.  “I will come to you.”

He was speaking, of course, of the Holy Spirit, and Pentecost, the birthday of the Church that we will celebrate in two weeks.

But he was speaking, also, of the profound love he and His Father have for all of us.    Love is at the heart of John’s gospel – written, the text tells us, by the “beloved disciple.”  And it is a recurring refrain in this particular passage.  The word “love” appears no less than four times in this brief paragraph.  But it is that singular promise – “I will not leave you orphans” – that carries the greatest resonance, and reveals the kind of love Jesus is talking about.

It is love that looks after those who feel as small and defenseless as children.  Those who are worried, or frightened.

It is love that teaches, encourages, comforts.

It is love that helps to make all of us who are children of God aware of wonder.  And is a love that reassures us, no matter what, that there is someone there, in good times and in bad.

We are not alone.  We are not orphans.

We are children of a loving God.

In a few moments, we will pray the great prayer of the church, the one that calls God “our Father,” and we will acknowledge that all of us are his children.  And we will ask him to be with us, to give us our daily bread, to deliver us from evil.   And in doing so, we will admit that, at one time or another, we need to be taken by the hand.   We need Our Father.  We need the God who came into the world in the Incarnation to remain with us.

And Jesus reassures us: He does.

“I will not leave you orphans,” Jesus said. The Spirit of Truth – the third person of the Trinity — remains our companion, our “advocate,” and our “counselor.”  He is there for us.

Which means that the triune God isn’t a disinterested parent sitting on the sidelines, on a park bench, bored.

He is with us — encouraging us, inspiring us, teaching us.  He is sharing this adventure of living with us.

We need only to trust in him, and to reach out for him.

He’ll gladly take us by the hand, and take us where He needs us to go.

In the roller coaster of life, He is right beside us.

Comments

  1. Mary Ellen says:

    Hi Deacon,
    My Husband and our family are posted in Panama, Central America. We live in the interior of the country and go to a local mission church (the priest here has 12 other chapels and churches). The language is only Spanish, we are far from fluent. We print out the readings and then go to your blog to find a Homily to take and read during mass.
    Thank you,
    Mary Ellen and Michael.

  2. Katie Angel says:

    Thank you, Deacon Greg. That was exactly what I needed to hear today.

  3. Deacon,
    When I read this this morning, I thought when he said he wouldn’t leave us, he was speaking of the Eucharist. That somehow the Spirit would open our eyes to that truth. He is saying HE (Jesus) will come to us. He talks separately of the Spirit. I haven’t found any writings on that, but it doesn’t SEEM to be off base. What do you think?
    God bless you,
    Janice

    [That's a great observation, Janice. The New American Bible commentary only refers to this reference as meaning "indwelling," which could be open to various interpretations -- but the Eucharist could certainly be one of them. Blessings, and thank you for the insight. Dcn. G.]

  4. romancrusader says:

    Deacon,
    Here’s a couple of things you ought to know about the New American Bible (revised).

    Here’s what I found interesting:

    http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1100418.htm

    “The publication of the revised Bible also reinvigorates an ongoing dispute between the Catholic Biblical Association and the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, a separately incorporated entity whose membership is composed of the members of the USCCB Administrative Committee. The confraternity licenses religious and spiritual literature.”

    “For decades, the association received payments from the confraternity for sales of Bibles and other publications that use the NAB translation. Payments — which the association said represented 25 percent of the income from licensing — but were stopped in 2008 while the confraternity sought changes in the arrangement.”

    “The two sides entered into the process of conciliation provided for under canon law. Both the USCCB and Father Jensen declined to comment on the specifics of the case.”

    Personally, I’ll pass and stick with the Latin Vulgate and Douay Rheims.

    It’s ironic that no Catholic Bible can be found in the stores that corresponds to the Lectionary used at Mass, especially since the bishop’s conference holds the copyright. Interestingly, this latest version wasn’t sent to the Holy See for approval. Guess why?
    -it retains the 1986 NT which contains such “scholarly” gems as: Romans 5:12, “as sin came into the world through one MAN”, “man” is changed to “PERSON” even though “MAN” refers to a specific person and is not being used as a generic. Not even the NRSV does that!
    -Mark 9:36 “And he took a child, and put HIM in the midst,” ‘HIM” is changed to “IT”. The child is neuterized. Both examples the result of, not scholarship, but feminist ideology.
    -in Isaiah “VIRGIN” is changed to ‘YOUNG WOMAN” A young woman having a child is quite common, hardly a “sign.”
    -also in the OT, the “IDEAL WIFE” changed to “POEMS ON THE WOMAN OF WORTH.” We are told, “Women will like this: being measured by their OWN ACCOMPLISHMENTS, not in terms of a husband’s perspective.” Scholarship?
    -The Book of Psalms uses the Revised Psalms, which the Holy See rejected, as a base text. They removed the vertical feminist language, but kept the rest.
    This product was produced by many of the people who gave us the defective RNAB, e.g., Fr. Jensen OSB, who makes no secret of his commitment to feminist language and is a major critic of the Holy See’s attempts to ensure fidelity of translation.
    In short, skip this “translation”and stay with the DR or the RSV-CE 2nd edition.

  5. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    Thank you, Roman. For better or for worse, the NAB is the translation used in the lectionary at mass, the one used in the Liturgy of the Hours, and the one I use for preparing my homilies, which is why I referenced its commentary. Dcn. G.

  6. Deacon G,

    I guess my question is why would you go to Disney World in Orlando ? Why support an organization , to my knowledge, that still has a ” gay ” day some time in early June and right in the face of families with young kids.
    Why ??

  7. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    Jim…

    Disney takes pains to point out that it is not an official sponsor of the “gay day” events, and it doesn’t sanction them. It doesn’t publicize them. It never mentions them in its website or commercials. They are put together by private groups, without Disney’s participation or consent.

    In this day and age, there’s just not a lot Disney can do about it; part of the company’s corporate policy prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

    My wife and I have been there during “gay days.” We saw a few guys holding hands, and some wearing pink Minnie Mouse ears, but that was about it. Nothing we don’t see every day in New York.

    Dcn. G.

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