An orphan is defined as a child who has lost his or her parents. It is more a legal term than anything else. Orphan was a common term used in Greek to describe disciples who were left without a master. Yet there is more a familiarity here since Jesus often called His disciples “little children.” Yet, that which I find interesting is that not all translations of John’s Gospel use this term ‘orphan’ – in some translations the word ‘desolate’ is used. Now desolate can be defined as a ‘state of emptiness’ or ‘deserted.’ In light of how Jesus relates to His closest followers, the two terms really carry the same meaning. Personally, I like the term ‘desolate’ better because I think it has a more profound meaning … its as if He is saying: “I will not leave you empty.” In a way, He is preparing them for that which is to come – namely His passion, death and resurrection … and at the same time for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Yesterday we were supposed to have confirmed 8 of our young Catholics. Up to this point they had been preparing – for 2 years – to receive this sacrament. Our Confirmation preparation is our way of helping these young people understand this statement of Jesus – I will not leave you empty … I will not leave you orphans. It is our way of helping prepare them for that which lies ahead in their own lives.
When something runs on empty, what exactly do we mean? That it is doesn’t function as it ought … it stopped working. If your car is on empty you won’t get very far. What exactly, then, is the message we send to our confirmandi? What exactly is the message sent by Jesus to all us today? Simply put that He is our fuel. This fuel is Himself – it is God. It is the Holy Spirit that He sends. Jesus prepares His disciples for His departure from the world only to send Himself back into them – not His physical presence but His spiritual presence. And this fuel – which is the Holy Spirit, this is the animating principle of who are, who we ought to be and how we are to function … It is the Holy Spirit that fills us with the abiding presence of God.
Yet how is this possible? How is it so? We can rightly say that by the gift of the Sacraments – Holy Communion, Confession – our prayer and the way we converse with God … yes that indeed fills us. But is it enough to fall in love with Him? Is it enough to function and live as we ought? We need also to step outside of ourselves and our own private experiences … by keeping His commandments and doing His work … when we live as He has taught us, as He prepared us for … then can we find ourselves filled with Him … in love with Him once again. And as such communicate to others that this God of ours has not left us orphaned … That He is still very much with and among us – His little children.