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.
There is not a shred of nostalgia in the New Testament for the days when Jesus walked among us. Have you noticed that? This man was so beautiful, compassionate and charismatic -- not to mention Good -- and people came from miles around just to be in his presence; yet afterwards his disciples did not seem to miss him. They didn't even linger in the places where he had been, Galilee and Jerusalem.
Jesus had assured them, "I will not leave you orphans!" and they took him at his word. Though he was dead he came to them and remained with them; and his Spirit empowered them to take his story to the farthest corners of the world.
Many people today suffer from a psychological disability known broadly as "abandonment." Many are women who have been deserted by their husbands or lovers; more are children who have only a nodding acquaintance with their parents.
Some people say this scourge began with the Industrial Revolution when work was mechanized and cottage industries disappeared. Since time immemorial men, women and children produced goods in their own homes, shops and farms. With mechanization they were taken from their homes and separated from their families, men with men, women with women, and children, overseen by strangers, with children. Exhausted by the long day in the factories the families hardly knew one another as they returned home.
Others point to the barbaric wars of the last three centuries when millions of men never came home, or returned as traumatized Veterans. Even when they were at home they were emotionally absent.
Plagues of distilled alcohol and drugs have cost us dearly as well. Ciders and wine gave way to hard alcohol; harmless coca and poppy were reduced to cocaine and opiates. The peace pipe of Native Americans became a cigarette, designed to be addictive.
Finally, there is the cult of individuality, which drives people to succeed as they shed their obligations to family, neighbors and church. Upward mobility is a lonely ambition; you can't take your loved ones with you into the upper atmosphere of elite society.
A religious spirituality of "Jesus and me" only reinforces that removal from human contact. The Christian in John Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress" deserted his wife, children and neighbors to pursue his lonely road to salvation. All of these forces leave us feeling very alone in the world, without a sense of belonging or membership. Should anyone be surprised that many find this life unbearable and kill themselves?
Fortunately, an alarm has been sounded and many realize we cannot go on like this.
If there was ever a "Catholic Hour" this is it, when the Holy Spirit must gather us back into communion with our families, neighbors, friends and the Lord. The Christian scriptures describe a church of men and women supremely comfortable in their bodies, ministry and world. Though arrested, tortured, imprisoned and sometimes martyred they continue to sing the praises of Jesus as hundreds and then thousands flocked to join them. If Jewish and gentile authorities could not accept Jesus because they neither saw nor knew him, the homeless and dispossessed recognized in the Crucified and Risen Lord a God who embraced them with open arms. He still promises to anyone who is ready, "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you."