I will not leave you orphans. These consoling words of the Lord Jesus, spoken to his disciples at the Last Supper, promised the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, would be given to the followers of the Lord Jesus. The Holy Spirit would be given to us to remain with us and within us so that we could remain in the Lord Jesus. I will not leave you orphans. The promise of the Holy Spirit assured the disciples that their relationship with the Lord Jesus would be changed not ended. He will not abandon us. He has promised us the gift of the Spirit.
The gift of the Spirit is given in response to a prayer. The Lord Jesus said that he will ask the Father, and the Father will give us another Advocate to be with us always. When Philip, one of the original seven deacons of the Church, proclaimed the gospel and worked mighty deeds in Samaria, the people responded in faith. Then, the apostles Peter and John came from Jerusalem, and through the prayers of these apostles, the gift of the Spirit was given to those new believers. The gift of the Spirit is not a gift that the community can give to itself. The gift of the Spirit is received in each generation and by each community through the prayers of the one who shares in the ministry of the apostles. The Bishop, as a successor of the Apostles, and through his coworkers the priests, makes present the gift of the Holy Spirit through the prayers of the Sacraments. The gift of the Spirit is given to us through our Holy Mother the Church and apostolic prayer.
The gift of the Spirit, given in response to prayer, enables us to live in the love of the Lord Jesus and to keep his commandments. The Lord Jesus says to us, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” These words of the Lord, however, are not a statement of love that is conditional. The Lord Jesus did not say, “Keep my commandments, and then I will love you.” The love that God has for us comes before any commandment that he has given to us. The Lord Jesus offers us unconditional love and invites our response of love. The greatest commandment, the new commandment that Jesus gave at the Last Supper, sums up all of the others. “Love one another as I have loved you.” Our lives in Christ Jesus are a loving response to the love that Jesus Christ has shown to us. In the power of the Holy Spirit, we strive to love as he loved. With the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are empowered to love patiently and kindly, without pride or jealousy, and unselfishly, as St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians. The gift of the Spirit empowers us to live in the love of the Lord Jesus.
And the gift of the Spirit, given in response to prayer and empowering us to live in love, gives us the defense for our hope. St. Peter tells us, “Always be ready to give an explanation for anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” It is not always our faith that we must explain. It is our hope. Faced with trials and persecutions in every generation, faced with tragedy and loss, with disasters natural and manmade, even so, we Christians are called to live as a people of hope. And the reason for our hope is that Jesus Christ has conquered sin, death, and the devil by the blood of his holy cross. The victory has been won by the Savior of the world. The only begotten Son of the Father has reconciled us to the Father. Christ is our hope, and by the gift of the Holy Spirit, we claim this hope as our own. The gift of the Spirit gives us the defense for our hope.
As we are gathered today as an apostolic community, we beg the Father through his Son to send the Holy Spirit upon us. The gift of the Spirit will empower us to live in the love of Christ. And we rejoice for the hope that is in us, that by the gift of the Spirit the Lord Jesus has kept his promise and has not left us orphans. Amen.