“Now I am going to the one who sent me, and not one of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’
But because I told you this, grief has filled your hearts. But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you.” (John 16:5-7)
This reading from John is often the Gospel reading for Pentecost or the days near it, in the church year. It is termed Christ’s farewell discourse. When I read this passage I’m always drawn to the emotions that the disciples must have felt after hearing these unexpected words when Jesus talked about His soon departure, a parting that was necessary for the Advocate (or in some translations, the Comforter or the Helper) to come to help the disciples (and us) wade through life and our futures.
Many questions meander through my thoughts. Were the disciples sad? Did they even begin to understand the meaning of the words Christ was sharing? Did they feel betrayed? Were they afraid? Were they at all tempted to turn and run, feeling like they had experienced and endured enough for this man who now was going to leave them? We really aren’t told what went through the disciple’s minds and hearts, but I wonder if there wasn’t a certain frenetic sense in the room.
The only life experience I’ve had that might begin to parallel this experience of the disciples was when my husband died. Even though it was almost 19 years ago, there remains a certain unprocessed sensitivity of the experience, when I recall it. My husband and I, too had talked about the fact that at some point in life, one of us would be called home to God and would leave the other. But when it happened countless questions raced through my mind. How will I ever move forward alone? What decisions do I need to make to face my future? Admittedly, there were many moments and hours of fear. Had I learned enough to make good choices and decisions for my future? Why? hy now? … and more.
I don’t know when in your life you have been challenged to forge forward, outside of your comfort zone, perhaps feeling quite alone. Eventually, I believe, we all have that experience. In this reading from John we are again reminded that we don’t face those times alone. God has provided by sending His Spirit, the Comforter, to see us through those days of fear and anxiety. How profoundly blessed we are to know and love a God who provides for us every day, enfolding us with compassion as we pick ourselves up and journey on. I pray that today you know the presence and grace of that Holy Comforter in your life.