Sunday, May 21, 2017



Given at Holy Rosary Cathedral in Vancouver, BC
Sunday May 21, 2017

       I will not leave you orphaned.
            John 14:18

God has always been portrayed in Scripture as having a soft spot in his heart for the orphan and the widow. Jesus and Mary, who probably lost Joseph when Jesus was young, knew first-hand what it was like to be an orphan and a widow.  It is not surprising, then, that one of the things that Jesus promised his disciples at the Last Supper, overcome with fear of being abandoned, was not to leave them orphaned, but to send them the Holy Spirit as a Comforter.  

Many people over the years have been “orphaned” in the literal sense of the word, either through abandonment, kidnapping or death. I cannot begin to imagine how traumatic that would be for any child, especially those old enough to know what is going on.

Even more people have been “orphaned” in a figurative sense. They have been divorced by their spouses, left as widows and widowers by untimely deaths, jilted by fiancés or dumped by close friends or “significant others.”

Having had no choice in what happened, they are left traumatized.  They carry those hollow feelings in the pit of their stomachs.  Their hearts ache. Their minds bounce between denial, bargaining and anger. Their obsessive thinking about it nearly drives them crazy as they try to make their way to acceptance. Some never recover from their feelings of being abandoned. 

Abandonment issues are very powerful issues in the lives of many, many people. It’s the fear of being alone and fear of not being able to handle what life throws at them. As social beings, created for interconnection, fear of losing those connections run deep. Genesis tells us that the very first sin ever committed involved a denial of that simple fact.

We are social beings, but what can we do when we have to face a major severing of the connection between our self and a loved one?  Some people go for years believing that if they just don’t like it enough, they will earn a reversal of that fact. When that doesn’t happen, they end up carry an oozing sore of bitterness for years and years – sometimes to their graves.

One of the most moving outreaches to these people that I have ever been involved in are the “Blue Christmas Masses” that I used to offer at Bellarmine University during the Christmas holidays when the loss, grief and loneliness of many come into sharp relief. .      

Prayer is sometimes about the only lifeline many people have during these traumatic times. For some, prayer helps about as much as anything, especially the kind of prayer that asks for a reconciliation with reality. But isn’t that the best kind of prayer – the kind that asks God to help us accept his will, instead of asking God to change his will? Mary, the Sorrowful Mother, who herself was left widowed and childless, is a perfect model for those who feel abandoned by those they love.

We may feel abandoned, but the truth of the matter we are never really abandoned. One of God’s name is Emmanuel, which mean “God with us!”

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