The setting of today’s Gospel is the night before Jesus’ own suffering and death. It’s a continuation of the Last Supper speech from which the Gospel of last Sunday was also taken. The reading is given to us in the Easter season as a reminder that the promises of God to his people have been completed. Jesus has returned to the Father and the Holy Spirit has been sent to guide all people to truth. Jesus’ farewell gift and wish for his disciples is a message of peace.
“Peace I bequeath to you; my own peace I give you.” In reflecting on these words, I found myself asking: what is peace and from where does it come?
Peace could mean different things to different people. For someone suffering from arthritis, one or two hours without pain could be peace. For students and teachers, anticipating the end of classes and exams in the next several weeks might bring a sense of peace! Thoughts of an end to war and violence can bring peace. Yet none of these images seem to fully capture or describe the peace of which Jesus speaks.
Jesus said, “Peace I bequeath to you. My own peace I give you. A peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you” When we think of peace we usually consider the ending of fighting between warring nations, or even warring members of a family- You only have to watch Judge Judy on the TV to see how often this happens. BUT, that isn’t the peace the Lord gives. The peace of the Lord is the joy we experience when we’re united with Him.
This is the peace that Jesus felt on the cross when He was united to His Father while His Sacred Body was being tortured to death. This is the peace that the martyrs felt when others brutalised them for refusing to give Jesus Christ up to them. This is the peace that we all feel when we’re mocked for taking our faith, our commitment to the Lord, so
seriously that we refuse to join in with the immorality of our particular groups, whether this be at school, in the neighborhood, in the club with the boys, or even within the country.
As Jesus prepared to return to the Father, he was at peace knowing he had accomplished the mission for which he was sent. He teaches us that peace comes from both being faithful and in letting go. Peace is an inner reality. It’s about recognising God’s presence in and around us, made possible by the gift of the Holy Spirit. “Anyone who loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our home with him.”Of course this isn’t only men that Jesus was saying this to- it was men, women boys and girls. Imagine Jesus wanting to make his home in people like us! And yet these words of Jesus offer us hope. When we allow ourselves to be led by the Spirit, we discover peace. When we make good choices, we experience peace.
When Jesus says "Anyone who loves me," he’s talking about his followers- that’s you and me. To Jesus "those who love me" is another way of saying "my disciples" or "those who believe in me" or simply "Christians." The relationship between the Christian and Christ is essentially a love relationship. That’s why Jesus said in John 15:15 "I do not
call you servants any longer ... I call you friends." Then, when Jesus says, "the Father will love him." He’s describing an intimacy, impossible for us to imagine.
He tells us that he and the Father will live in us - by the power of the Holy Spirit.Of course, this intimacy has a high price, and one of the most painful things in this life is the physical separation from someone we love. Some of us have experienced that in relation to our parents - or some other much loved person. Jesus tells us today the reason for separation - so that we might have an even more intimate union with him. The disciples were devastated by the death of Jesus, but they then came the great miracle of the Resurrection.
Then, Jesus explains that he must once again go from their sight. He does it for a reason: so that he can send the Advocate- The Holy Spirit- the one who stands up for us, like a lawyer. Jesus calls the Holy Spirit to make possible an intimate union with the Trinity - the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Of course the Holy Spirit is given primarily to the church and, through the church, to us as individuals when we become members of the church.
This is what we see in the 1st reading where disagreements among Christians are resolved through discussion and community judgment and not through each one consulting the Holy Spirit privately. In the end they come out with a resolution, which starts with the words, "it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us."
My friends, today, we’re invited to experience the gift of peace, which comes to us in both the Word we’ve heard and in the Eucharist we’ll receive. It seems appropriate today to pray for peace; peace in our hearts, homes, and especially in the world.