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Easter 6

My most moving encounters when I visit wakes or preside at funerals is to see the anguish and sadness of orphaned children. I cannot help but be emotionally carried by the scene of children and young people forever deprived of the presence of their loving parents in their lives. A priest friend related to me that this is also his most moving experience in the liturgy.

To be orphaned is truly a difficult, painful reality. When I was young, there was a kundiman (a traditional lyric song) that spoke of the travails of being an orphan. An orphan always cries at night because when a parent is forever gone, who else will come to your aid when you are in distress? Who will console you in your pain? To whom will you run for comfort and assurance? The song ends by saying that it is better to perish than to be an orphan.

Jesus knows the ordeals of orphans, with his exposures to the sufferings of people who lost loved ones. Jesus often grieved with people in their loss. He also knew that given his intimacy with his disciples, once he is away from them, after his death and resurrection, they will undergo the experience akin to orphans. They will miss his physical presence. In the gospel today, he makes a promise: I will not leave you orphans.

How will the disciples avoid being orphaned? Jesus tells them that when he leaves, he will send the Holy Spirit, the Advocate or Paraclete, to be with them. The Holy Spirit will continue and strengthen the presence of Jesus among the disciples. The Holy Spirit will make the power of God seep into every part and parcel of the existence of the disciples.

Because Jesus died and rose again, it is possible to receive the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, God who lives in our hearts. In the gospel he is called an Advocate, literally a defense attorney, because he takes up our case and defends us against the evils of this world. But in another sense, the Holy Spirit is called Advocate or Paraclete because he is Consoler, the one who accompanies us and comforts us in our life of faith, especially when we are confronted with many challenges and difficulties.

We are not orphans because although Jesus is now in heaven, he has sent the Holy Spirit into our hearts. That is why we have baptism. The Holy Spirit enters into us to make us God’s children. We have Confirmation. He enters into us to make us witnesses.

Most especially, the Holy Spirit is in our daily life of prayer and in living out our faith. A man was recently met with a string of trials in his life. I asked him how he survived it all. He said that it was God who gave him the strength as he prayed, went to Mass and tried to surrender everything to him.

In a few days, we will have the novena to the Holy Spirit to prepare for his feast day, Pentecost. Let us remember that he lives in our hearts today to make Jesus present and to inspire us to walk in his way.