For those who have not seen it, The Lion King is a beautifully rendered musical. The story on stage is the same as Disney's 1994 film; however, the real achievement is in the costumes and stageplay. The African Savannah is brought to life right there in the theater, and the audience is surrounded by swooping birds, swaying grasses, and prowling great cats.
The musical also adds some new songs to the story. One of these, which is now on my frequent playlist, is Simba's "Endless Night." It comes at a point in the story when the young king-to-be must consider his destiny and face some difficult choices. His father is dead; his uncle has taken the throne; and his people suffer. He must go back home. The young one is scared.
So he prays.
Maybe it wouldn't be interpreted that way by everyone, but here is a child speaking to his father and expressing his fears, frustrations and desires. He begins with the darkness that he perceives. He calls on his "father," recalling that he had said that he'd be with him. At this point in Simba's life, that seems untrue. But the power of the song is not in this disappointment, but rather in the hope that Simba eventually expresses.
I know that the night must end
and that the sun will rise.
In the gospel today, Jesus promises something similar to what Simba's dad did. "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always." Christ "will not leave you orphans;" He "will come to you." This is, for me, one of the most comforting lines in the Gospels. It is Jesus' desire to be with us - not to leave us orphans, but to be there always. This particular gospel selection delves into the mystery of the Trinity, as Christ, the Son, promises God's presence through the Father's gift of the Spirit. For the Christian, this means that we are never alone - no matter how dark the night - and that there is always One who pleads our cause with the Father.
Simba's "prayer" is, perhaps, the same as ours sometimes, when we feel alone and abandoned by everyone - even God. However, hope is a theological virtue (as opposed to a human one) that is given by God. Hope teaches us that even in the darkness there is truth. The night must end, and the sun will rise; the clouds must clear, and the sun will shine.
Jesus remain with His Church, present in His people. Through the sacraments, God's life is continually transmitted in the world, we live the promise of Christ that He is in the Father, and we are in Him and He in us. Jesus comes to us in just this way. Sometimes, the temptation when we feel desolate and alone is to abandon our faith, our Church, our God. "If He won't help me, then I'll deny Him." But this is exactly when we need these words of Jesus the most. "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you."
Here, in the Eucharist, Jesus comes to us - regardless of where we are emotionally or spiritually. He comes, and He dwells with us still. This presence of Christ does not change the challenges we face; but it does change the way we face the challenge. Through the Church, through the sacraments, the priesthood and the Eucharist, Jesus continues to give to us the pledge of this promise - "I am with you."
This is the source of our hope - this promise of Jesus; this presence of God through the Spirit of Truth. When we are challenged, we are ready "to give a reason for the hope" that is in us, as St. Peter writes. This reason is Jesus, who does not leave us orphans; He does not abandon us. Darkness may come; the stars may be hidden from sight; but our hope teaches us that this is only temporary. The night must end, the clouds must clear, and the sun will rise and shine.
Our prayer today may be much like Simba's - with our own frustrations and needs - but Christ's response continues to come to us - through the Spirit which He promised. We are not orphans; we are children of the Father. And faith brings a new dawn.