Sermon, Easter V

It’s Mother’s Day, a whole day to remember our mothers, whether they are still with us or not. My mother is still with me, though she’s not here this morning, so I can talk about her all I want. Perhaps more importantly, I am not home with her this Mother’s Day, so once again my brother, who is there with our mother, will this day win the “good son” war we have been waging for so long. My brother and I like to make fun of our mother’s little maxims. “A closed window is a locked window,” she would tell us. “Don’t go upstairs empty handed” was a borrowed phrase, but I heard it more often than I can count or remember. Most mother’s we knew would tell their sons to “do their best,” but our mother would say “Be a Christian gentleman.” Yeah, easier said than done, we would mutter, and we were right, it is easier to say you’re a Christian than to actually be a Christian. Living in remembrance of the Lord is hard, living in love is hard, living out the commandments of Christ is hard. My brother and I needed help in these things then, and we need help now. We all do. Jesus knew we would need help, and He didn’t leave us helpless. In His stead He bade His Father to send His Holy Ghost as our help and Advocate, an Advocate to remind us, to settle us, and to give us peace.

“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 forever…I will not leave you orphaned ” said Jesus to His disciples. The disciples needed to hear these words, words of comfort and consolation at a time of deep despair. The disciples were at supper with Jesus, the Last of their suppers with Jesus, and they were just beginning to understand that fact. Jesus had sat them down and told them that He was going to His Father. He had disrobed and washed their feet, giving them a new commandment, a commandment to love one another. He had told them that although He was leaving, He would not leave them orphaned. Throughout that night the disciples revealed their lack of understanding, they asked Jesus questions that might seem to us startling in their ignorance. Peter asked Jesus why He would wash his feet, and Jesus responds with a command to serve. Peter asked another question, he asked Jesus where He was going, and Jesus tells Peter that where He is going, Peter cannot follow, not just yet.. Next up is Thomas, who asked Jesus to show him the way, and Jesus tells him that Jesus Himself is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Jesus assures the Disciples that in seeing Him, they have seen the Father, they have seen God. Jesus tells them that soon enough the world will not see Him any longer, that everything is going to change, but that they should not fear; He tells them that they will see Him, that as He lives so also will they live, that He will not leave them orphaned. Jesus gave them words of comfort and consolation in a time of deep despair.

We reach out for comfort as well. We have our trying times, we have what feels to us to be our last suppers. We get confused, confounded, we become fearful in the face of change and loss. Who among us has been spared the agony of divorce or the death of a loved one, who among us has been spared the fear of change or darkness on the our path? We are not spared any more than the disciples were, and we like them often grasp at the words of Jesus with hands crippled by lack of understanding. We like Peter don’t understand the Lord’s servanthood, we like Thomas can’t find the way, we like Judas wonder how the Lord will dwell with us. We ask the questions and when we find the answers not forthcoming, we sink into the dark waters of fear and uncertainty. The peace of Christ, the peace that only the Lord can give, can seem so far away, out of sight and indeed out of soul. But Jesus knows our questions, our fears, our uncertainties, He knows we need help just as He knew the disciples needed help, and just as Jesus answered His disciples, He answers us.

“I will not leave you orphaned,” Jesus tells the disciples. But the disciples hearts are troubled, they already feel like orphans. Their teacher and Lord is going away, going down a path they cannot follow. He tells them to rejoice, be glad, for He is going to His Father, He is going to His glory, He is going home. But all the disciples see is that Jesus is leaving them, they see the light on their path flickering out, they see a future of being painfully alone. They needed help, they needed a Advocate, an Advocate in their time of woe, and Jesus, knowing their need, tells them Who is to come. “I will ask the Father,” Jesus said, “and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” The Spirit of truth, that wellspring of love, that Holy Ghost will come to dwell with you, the Holy Ghost will come to remind you, to teach you, to be the help of ages past with you in this age. And He is with us still.

I think again about mothers. I think of Saint Monnica, mother of St. Augustine, whose feast we celebrated on Tuesday, Monnica who prayed without ceasing for the conversion of her son. I think again of my mother. She is at Mass right now, probably listening to a sermon even as I stand here, she is preparing to meet Christ once again in His Body and His Blood. And I think of our Blessed Mother, she of pierced heart and loving soul, the Mother of all her Son has redeemed. I think of Blessed Mary conceiving by the Holy Ghost, of Mary hastening to her cousin Elizabeth, both mothers carrying extraordinary children, both full of the Holy Ghost. And I think of Mary whom we crown with blossoms today, the Queen of Angels and the Queen of May, the very angels of heaven crying out with us Regina Caeli, Queen of Heaven! My mother is a woman of a certain resolve, but our Mother stood at the foot of the Cross. My mother told me to be a Christian gentleman, to love the Lord and follow His commandments, our Mother tells me the same, and they both know that’s easier said than done. But I know that our help is with us still, that same Advocate, that same Spirit of truth who came to the disciples comes to us also, helping, prodding, comforting, reminding, manifesting Himself in us. The Holy Ghost is present with us just as Jesus was present with His disciples, He prays with us, for us, and through us, and with the Blessed Mother shows unto us Christ our Lord. Through the Holy Ghost we know and feel that we are not orphans, not abandoned and alone, but rather one body, one Church, one family in Christ. An evangelist named Father John Corapi is fond of talking about how tough Blessed Mary was and is, he says that “our Mother wears combat boots.” We crown our Mother today as one tough Queen of Heaven, a mother who even while watching her Son die in agony took on St. John as an adopted son, and she mothers all Christians still. We have a Blessed Mother who intercedes for us, the Holy Ghost who dwells within us, the Lord Jesus who died for us, and a great Father in Heaven who has given us all these things. It’s a great Mother’s Day.

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