6th Sunday of Easter
Year A

"I will not leave you orphans"

In 1626 French Jesuits launched an organized missionary effort among the Huron Indians. The Hurons, a nation of Iroquoian stock, then lived near Georgian Bay in Canada's Province of Ontario. Leader of these Jesuits was the notable Father Jean de Brebeuf.

The Huron apostolate was difficult, but gradually some of the Indians began to embrace the gospel. One of the most admirable converts was Tehoronhiongo. Baptized "Francis" by Fr. Brebeuf himself, he developed into a man of prayer who sought constantly to deepen his knowledge of the faith.

Unfortunately for the Huron mission, the New York Iroquois began a war of extermination in 1642 against their Huron cousins, striking also at the French who sided with the Hurons. After eight years the Iroquois achieved this aim. They broke up and scattered the Huron nation. During that bitter struggle, Fr. Brefeuf and four other Jesuit priests in Huronia were murdered. (They were canonized as martyrs in 1930). A great many Hurons fell before the enemies. Many more were taken captive and "adopted" by their conquerors. Indeed, one whole Huron village, St. Michael's, originally located near Orr Lake in Ontario, was induced to move down to New York State. They resettled near Holcomb, N.Y., in the County of the Seneca Iroquois.

One of the citizens of this "adopted" captive village was Francis Tehoronhiongo. Of course, he and the other exiled Huron Christians were now deprived of priests.

Finally, however, the Iroquois made peace with the French and even invited Jesuit "blackrobes" to come into the Iroquois country. There were perils involved in accepting this invitation; still the Jesuits did send the missionaries.

When Fr. Jacques Fremin arrived at St. Michael's in 1668, Francis greeted him warmly. He had been praying for twenty years to be able to receive the sacrament of penance again before he died. Now he said to Father Fremin, "At last God has heard me. Confess me!" The priest was touched and very happy to oblige.

Fr. Jacques found Francis "an old man of approved faith." He now engaged him as a catechist. Not only did the Huron understand well the mysteries of the Faith; he behaved with such Christian dignity that no other Indian ventured to speak indecently or irreverently in his presence.

In today's gospel, Our Lord promises "I will not leave you orphaned." He who had established the sacrament of reconciliation did not abandon this old Huron who prayed for a chance to go to confession. Far from leaving us orphaned today, Jesus provides us constantly with priests whom He uses as the instruments of His presence and His absolution.

The sad fact is that we do not approach these priests more frequently and more appreciatively, asking them with Huron Francis "Confess me!"

-Father Robert F. McNamara

Q. 317: Some so-called “pro-abortion” people claim to love Jesus. How can they favor abortion and make this claim?

Our gospel today (Jn 14:15-21) is very clear about “who” truly loves Jesus. Jesus himself says, “He who obeys the commandments he has from me is the man who loves me.” So a pro-abortion stance, in and of itself being directly in opposition to the Lord’s commandments, nullifies any claim of true love of Jesus.

Long before the officially approved “canon” of scripture was established, it was the constant teaching of the Church that abortion was a horrible violation of, and sin against, the commandments of God. For example “The Didache” – aka “Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” – was written in the first century (probably between 70-80 A.D.), and says the following, in part: “Thou shalt not kill … commit adultery … commit fornication … kill a child by abortion, neither shalt thou slay it when born…” Nevertheless, many pro-choice people claim a “right” to kill, abort, fornicate, adulterate, all actions which are in direct violation of both God’s commandments and the constant teaching of the Church Magisterium (i.e., the teaching office of the true successors to the apostles). People with a “pro-abortion” stance are clearly giving more credence to man-made laws than they do to God’s directives.

Many times pro-choice people (each with their own definition of what “pro-choice” means) confuse their “rights” with their free-will “choices.” The “pro-choice, anti-abortion” reader must understand that it is the very idea that when they say it is okay for “others” to make that decision, they are directly and indirectly endorsing the evil effect on the community, their youth, and their own eternal life. The “right” to directly take an innocent human life belongs only to God. However, one can indeed make a free-will “choice” that selects an evil action instead of a loving action. If that negative choice is made and/or defended, then that person by the definition of Jesus himself in today’s gospel is without love for being a willing participant in evil. Pro-abortion people claim to “see” the truth, but are “blind” like the Pharisees in John’s gospel scenes. Jesus told them that since they claim to “see,” that their guilt remains (Jn 9:41, RSV).

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! People taking a pro-abortion stance are outside the communion of love and do not have the Spirit of Truth alive in their hearts (CCC#2615). Those claiming to love Jesus, but using abortion services, have replaced His Truth with their own ideals for their personal convenience. Even the simple bystanders, who have not properly informed their conscience, have replaced Truth with a gravely misguided altruism. Evil acts can be chosen deliberately, or by erroneous judgments and invincible ignorance (CCC#1790-93); nevertheless, true love proceeds from a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith (CCC#1794). Do not forget to intercede for those whose judgments appear to be faulty and lacking in love; by interceding we take our lesson from Jesus himself (CCC#2634).

Q473: What does Jesus mean, “I will not leave you orphans”?

What consoling and comforting words we hear in the Gospel today (John 14:15-21). Jesus is about to ascend back to his Father in heaven. So Jesus tells his friends – and therefore you and me – “Don’t worry. You won’t be orphans. I will be back in a little while. Trust in that. In the “between time,” the Father will send you another Advocate who will be with you always.”

What do you think occasioned those words from Jesus? Well, obviously the Apostles were a bit on the scared side! They probably were feeling exactly like teenagers going off to college – scared to death, going off on their own for the first time, and fearing the unknown. So they receive the consolation and affirmation and support of their parents. Jesus is saying, as long as you have the Holy Spirit with you, you will have absolutely nothing to fear. So get out there and spread the Good News.

Philip the Deacon worked mighty wonders (First Reading: Acts 8), but only because he was filled with the same Holy Spirit. In fact, his work of evangelization and healing was with the hated Samaritans, and the power of the Holy Spirit produced its results. Nevertheless, the bishops (the Apostles) had to come and “lay hands” upon these new Christians so that they could also receive the Holy Spirit.

That is the message for us today. Never forget that the Holy Spirit dwells within you, not far away in some cosmic location! Baptism and Confirmation bring the fullness of the Holy Spirit into your life – the same effect as if Jesus was walking with you and living in your house! That is a tremendous consolation, knowing we can call upon the Spirit of God within us in our time of need – which is every day of our lives.

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! The Father sends us the Holy Spirit because Jesus asks him to do so; this Spirit is the Advocate – “he who is called to one’s side” – always there to lead us to all Truth (CCC #692). The gift of the Spirit imparted by the Sacrament of Confirmation perpetuates the grace of Pentecost in the Church (CCC #1288).

I Will Not Leave You Orphans

Today's Gospel passage is part of Jesus' farewell conversation with his disciples. They are confused and distressed at the prospect of his leaving them, but Jesus comforts them and us with the promise of the Spirit. While he is leaving in one way, he remains with us in a different way, through the Spirit. The gift of the spirit will build us into the Mystical Body of Christ – to be one with him and with each other, in continuing the mission of Jesus in the world. The selection from Acts gives us a model of how the Spirit operates. Just as the Spirit enabled different groups in the infant church to live together in fellowship, so today the Spirit enables them not only top survive persecution, but to bring good out of it by planting the faith among the Samaritans.

Lord Jesus, you are with us and we are in you through the Holy spirit. Help us to so transform ourselves that our lives may reveal your presence to others.