FIRST READING (Peter and John laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.)
A reading from the Acts of the Apostles (8:5-8, 14-17)
Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Christ to them. With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing. For unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice, came out of many possessed people, and many paralyzed or crippled people were cured. There was great joy in that city.
Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who went down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for it had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. —The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM (66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20)
Let all the earth cry out to God with joy. (Ps 66:1)
Shout joyfully to God, all the earth, sing praise to the glory of his name; proclaim his glorious praise. Say to God, “How tremendous are your deeds!” (R)
Let all on earth worship and sing praise to you, sing praise to your name! Come and see the works of God, his tremendous deeds among the children of Adam. (R)
He has changed the sea into dry land; through the river they passed on foot; therefore let us rejoice in him. He rules by his might forever. (R)
Hear now, all you who fear God, while I declare what he has done for me. Blessed be God who refused me not my prayer or his kindness. (R)
SECOND READING (Put to death in the flesh, Christ was raised to life in the Spirit.)
A reading from the first Letter of Saint Peter (3:15-18)
Beloved: Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the Spirit. —The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
GOSPEL ACCLAMATION (Jn 14:23)
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Whoever loves me will keep my word, says the Lord, and my Father will love him and we will come to him. (R)
GOSPEL (I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate.)
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John (14:15-21)
Jesus said to his disciples: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him. But you know him, because he remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” —The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments…I will not leave you orphans”
In our era, some of the most heart-wrenching and poignant pictures that flash across the world in TV news and in social media come in the wake of either natural disasters or those caused by military conflicts and wars. These photos are of orphaned and abandoned children. Their pain and vulnerability is compounded by their victimization; they seem to be wandering about aimlessly, lost, confused.
Their eyes and the expression on their faces cries out with grief and fear. They are so helpless, and they look so abandoned and vulnerable. To be orphaned too often means to lack food and shelter, to never feel the caress of love – to be alone.
It is a look I have seen so often in my years serving as a priest and missionary; the starving children suffering from draught, or orphaned by the AIDS epidemic in Tanzania. The abandoned and forgotten children living under the streets in the frozen landscape of Khabarovsk, scavenging for food in the early light of dawn as they move through garbage bins or seeking discarded clothing or newspapers to wrap their frozen limbs, lacking food or medicine to ward of disease and illness. It is the look of utter fear and emptiness seen in the eyes of babies and young children in an orphanage, not knowing the love of a mother or father.
It is the same image that Jesus uses in the Gospel today as he speaks to the apostles and disciples preparing them for the time when he will ascend to the Father. These men have been his close companions and so Jesus knows their strengths and their weaknesses. But like abandoned children, they are vulnerable and still dependent on Him. The idea of being without Christ in their midst has them overcome with fear and grief, making them feel helpless and hopeless. They think back to their confusion and disillusionment after the crucifixion and death of Jesus, before his Resurrection. They thought he had died and left them, and now they fear not just abandonment but also persecution. Jesus gives them a special promise – they will never be left alone; he will send to them another Advocate, the Holy Spirit, the spirit of truth.
Throughout this season of Easter, we read each day and on each Sunday the stories from the Acts of the Apostles. These readings show how the Church prepared for and faced life without the presence of Christ in their midst. We recall that immediately after the Resurrection, Mary Magdalene and the other women as well as the disciples on the road to Emmaus and the other apostles did not recognize the Risen Lord. They were not prepared for his suffering and death; even more they did not understand or comprehend the possibility and reality of his resurrection. But slowly, step by step, with each post-Resurrection appearance, their eyes and hearts were opened, and they realized the presence of Christ among them.
Jesus promises us that same Holy Spirit sent by the Father who will remain with us until the end of time. He promises us: “I am in the Father and you are in me and I am in you.” There is no reason to feel abandoned or like orphans. But we do need faith to SEE the presence of Christ before us.
Jesus left us his presence in a special way through the sacrament of the Eucharist. Each time we gather at Mass, we receive Christ’s Body and Blood. He nourishes us for our journey; he strengthens our faith; he gives us comfort and joy; he lifts our spirits; he lightens our burdens. As a priest, giving the Eucharist to anyone is a special gift, a grace, a joy – through receiving the Body of Christ, we are being told, “You are never alone! I am always with you.”
But in these days especially, when most – if not all – of us have been abruptly cut off from the possibility of receive the Body and Blood of Christ at the Mass, we need to remember the promise of Jesus: “You are never alone! I am always with you.” The month of May is a time when traditionally children receive their First Communion, and part of our past traditions of First Communions were not only the special clothes we wore, but also small gifts we were given or received: a scapular, a rosary, a prayer book, a medal. These gifts helped to remind us where we can find nourishment and strength – food for the journey of our life. The rosary – in this month dedicated to Mary – reminds us of how to always find Jesus through his mother Mary, knowing through the mystery of Mary a mother’s touch and caress will lead you into the arms of her Son, Jesus. No, we are never orphans, we are never alone.
Jesus also reminds you and all of us today how to stay close to him — “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Despite the difficulties and inability to join our community of faith each week for Mass, we can join with people more than ever throughout the world now, through this medium of video, praying together on this Sunday, hearing God’s Word, participating in the sacrifice of Christ at the altar, and receiving Jesus spiritually at the time of communion. In this way we are keeping His commandments.
Today as I celebrate this Mass, my thoughts go back some 43 years ago to that day when I was humbled to kneel before a saintly missionary, Bishop James Edward Walsh of Maryknoll, as he celebrated on that same day his 50th anniversary as a missionary bishop. He ordained me, and placed this cross around my neck, sending me out to the nations, to follow not only in his footsteps but in the steps of all missionaries who for centuries have brought the message of Christ to all.
Bishop Walsh, in his spiritual testimony, reminded us that we go where we are not wanted but needed, and stay until we are wanted but no longer needed. I have followed that message through these four plus decades from Shinyanga to Dar es Salaam and Kibaha in Tanzania; to service in the Vatican and traveling to over 35 countries visiting missions and missionaries; to the frozen tundra of Irkutsk in Eastern Siberia and as a pastor in Khabarovsk, the capital of the Russian Far East; then preaching and teaching about missions in the US, then a brief return to graduate school to learn a totally new ministry of mercy through justice, and now here to St. Margaret’s parish and the Diocese of Hong Kong, and China, where Bishop Walsh preceded me 102 years ago.
St. Ignatius Loyola once challenged his followers in their own mission to ask each day, “What did I do for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What will I do for Christ?” Those are wonderful words of wisdom and encouragement. When the great prophet Isaiah was called by God, he wrote: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?’ ‘HERE I AM LORD, I said, ‘SEND ME!’” Thanks to your friendship, your prayers, your encouragement and your generosity I have been able to say, again and again each day. SEND ME. And through this priestly ministry, acting in persona Christi, reassuring all that Jesus will never abandon us and leave us orphans.
Celebrant: Our heavenly Father has not left us as orphans. He has sent to us the Holy Spirit. Strengthened by the teaching of God’s Word, we turn with confidence to our God for what we need.
READER: For our Holy Father, Francis, our bishops and priests, that the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, may be with them in their ministry of preaching, teaching and guiding their flock in the Gospel, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For all who govern and exercise authority, that they may bring peace, justice and equitable prosperity to the nations of the world, especially in this difficult months of the pandemic, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For the salvation of the world, that missionaries may banish darkness and despair from all hearts and minds, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For a renewed spirit of evangelization, that despite the difficulties we faced in joining together as a community of faith each week, we may be able to share with others the reasons for the hope we cherish, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For those struggling with difficult decisions, for the sick, the poor and the bereaved, for those who have asked for our prayers and for our faithful departed, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
CELEBRANT: Father of all love, may the sacrifice we are about to offer on this altar ascend with our prayers to you, and bring upon us your blessing and your peace. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. (all) AMEN.