By Fr Michael Willemsen
First Reading Acts 8:5-8. 14-17;
Second Reading 1 Pt 3:15-18;
Gospel Jn 14:15-21 or Jn 17:1-11
A month ago, I was the celebrant for a couple getting married in our church here at St Mary’s, Bairnsdale. As part of our preparation, I asked how the couple met. As is so often the case these days, they met online through a dating app. What’s also common these days is that when the couple met face to face, they did so alone.
Do you remember the stories of young women being chaperoned by an older sibling? It still happens in other parts of the world. And, in some cultures who have made Australia home. But, it is largely absent from modern forms of dating. Because, unless we’re talking about young women who sign up for Farmer Wants a Wife, young women and men don’t tend to meet to check each other out for marriage potential.
For those who do remember, the chaperon would be with the couple on the date, ensuring the propriety of each occasion, acting as an advocate on behalf of the young woman and her family. The chaperon would accompany her with a view to the date, possibly leading to a courtship and marriage.
When we were baptised, its as though we were given the Holy Spirit as our Chaperon, accompanying us in our relationship with God, with a view to each of us saying yes to our Beloved, who was willing to lay down his life for each of us as the people of God - his Bride, the Church.
The Gospel today, continues from previous Sundays, directly addressing the situation the disciples found themselves in once the appearances of Jesus as their risen Lord had ceased. Naturally, like the spouse whose life-partner dies, the disciples feel the loss of Jesus’ physical presence.
John’s Gospel plays down the traditional expectation of Jesus’ coming on the last day, for the sake of emphasising his abiding presence in the community. For unbelievers, Jesus will cease to be a reality after his death. However, for believers, Jesus promises they will still ‘see’ him, experiencing his visible presence in the community.
As members of the Church that is his Bride, we know he died so that we might live, putting into action his words: a person can have no greater love than to lay down their life for their friend (Jn 15:13). Furthermore, we believe his promise has been fulfilled that he would be with us until the end of time (Mt 28:20).
Accepting God’s Word and receiving the Holy Spirit at our Baptism, Confirmation and every moment of the time we spend with the Father and the Son through the advocacy of our Chaperon, we are growing in our knowledge of God’s love for us. So, as St Peter in that second reading urges his hearers: “have your answer ready for the people who ask you the reason for the hope that you have”. And, the answer is “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son” (Jn 3:16). And, the more we grow in this knowledge, the more inclined we are towards that complete yes, which the Bridegroom asks of his Bride.
Finally, this image of a chaperon, I dare suggest, can help young people date with purpose. Times have changed, I know. The days of young people dating with the purpose of marriage in mind have largely faded. But, the times of courtship and chaperons has its wisdom, doesn’t it? And we can talk to our young adults and encourage them to consider the purpose of their dating, even though parents and grandparents could be shocked when they get an honest answer about the young person’s purpose when dating - especially if they date via the website Tinder. Be brave! Guide the young along the way of propriety and integrity in relationships, for their sake, motivated by your love of them. Tell them about your experience of courtship and chaperons. And, that all of us of every generation, have the Holy Spirit as Chaperon, always acting in our best interest.