6th Sunday of Easter (Ages 3-6): The Advocate
6th Sunday of Easter, Year A
3-6 year olds
(Adults, you could begin by reading the Gospel aloud to the child. Alternatively, you could read the first paragraph of the reflection to the child, then read the Gospel, and then continue with the reflection.)
Last Sunday we listened to Jesus remind the disciples that the Good Shepherd goes ahead of his sheep. Jesus tells them that he will go ahead to prepare a place in his Father's house so that they can be together. He says these things because the disciples are upset. They do not want him to leave them. Jesus knows this, and he knows that they are still worried. In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus continues to reassure them--to explain to the disciples that they will not be alone.
“In a little while the world will no longer see me”
Exactly! This is the problem! The disciples want to see Jesus. They like being with him. If Jesus goes away, they will feel alone.
We do not like it when someone we love goes away. We feel alone, and that can be scary, and it is not fun. Jesus knows this. He says,
“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.”
"Orphaned" means being left alone, cut off from the people we love. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, will not leave his sheep alone.
“If you love me...
If you love me? Of course the disciples love Jesus! We love Jesus, too.
...you will keep my commandments.”
Commandments are what Jesus says, how he calls his followers to act in a certain way. We know that the Good Shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out and the sheep follow because they know his voice. But I have often wondered about those sheep who are at the back of the flock. They probably cannot see the Good Shepherd from way back there. Are they just following the sheep in front of them? Jesus reminds his disciples that the sheep may not be able to see him, but they follow because they listen to his voice. This is what "keep my commandments" means.
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.”
What is an Advocate? An Advocate is someone who sticks up for you, who explains you to the world. We know how we feel when the people around us do not understand what we are trying to say. It makes us mad. It makes us want to stomp our feet. It makes us want to cry. It is the job of the Advocate to speak for us, to do the explaining.
"Advocate" comes from a word that means "to comfort." While explaining us to the world, the Advocate also turns and comforts us. When someone comforts us--gives us a hug, says words to make us feel better--we feel stronger. We are better able to continue our day.
Who is this Advocate that God will send? Jesus says,
“This is the Spirit of truth”
Oh ho! The Spirit of truth, the Spirit from God, the Spirit of God? We know who this is! The Holy Spirit. Holy, because God is holy. Holy God.
“You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”
It is kind of funny, because we know more than the disciples know. Jesus has to tell them that they know the Holy Spirit. He has to tell them that the Holy Spirit will be in them. We have known the Holy Spirit for a long time. We talk about the Holy Spirit a lot.
How does the Holy Spirit come to be in us?
Before we are baptized the priest stretches out his hand over the water in prayer. The priest asks for the Holy Spirit to come to fill the water, to make it holy, too. When we are brought to the baptismal font, the priest--with the Good Shepherd's voice--calls us by name, and pours this holy water over our heads three times, "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
For many of us, this moment happened before we can remember. We can think about the moment the Holy Spirit came to us, by asking an adult to prepare a bowl of water and a towel. We can make a fist with one hand and place our fist over the bowl of water. We can pretend that our fist is a baby's head about to be baptized. Then, with the other hand, we scoop up water and pour it over the baby's head. How many times? Three. We say, "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." We can feel the water run over our fist, the way it ran over our head when we were baptized.
As we dry our hands off with the towel, we can think about that moment when the Advocate--the One who comforts us, the One who explains for us, the One who is always with us--began to live and work in us. We are never alone.