“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”
I had been out all day at the Philippines Immigration office in Intramuros trying to renew my missionary visa. I returned home only to be greeted with the front page picture of the Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall who had been kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group in southern Mindanao. John had been beheaded a few days earlier and his decapitated head had been found in a nearby island. I was struck by the look of fear in their eyes in the front page of the newspaper. I could also sense fear rising in my own heart too as I thought, “It could happen to me.” I could be in the wrong place at the wrong time and meet the same fate as these fellow foreigners. It is so easy for fear to creep into our hearts in today’s world.
In Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus speaks at the Last Supper of His coming passion and death, “I have told you this while I am with you… I am going away and I will come back to you.” Having sensed the fear creeping into the hearts of His disciples, Jesus says to them, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you…Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” The peace of Christ, that which filled His heart and which He offers to us, is rooted in new and true relationship with God the Father. Faced earlier with the possibility of losing His disciples shortly before the hostilities that led to His death, He resisted the movements of fear by speaking of His peace being found in His relationship with the Father, “The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, even man to his own home, and you will leave me alone; yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.”(Jn 16:32)
This peace of Christ by which we now belong to God as His children in Christ is not a static thing that we can just hold on to but it is a dynamic reality that must grow because it is based on a new, true and vital relationship with God. For us to overcome fear, we crowd the fear out of our hearts by holding on to the peace of Christ at all cost and growing constantly in that peace. Today’s Readings also indicate three ways in which we can hold on to the peace of Christ in our world today and grow in that peace.
First, we must reject the false promises of peace that this world offers to us. We cannot be seeking for the peace of Christ while longing and pursuing the peace that comes from the world at the same time, “Not as the world gives do I give it to you.” The peace of this world is only a promise of something that is fleeting and unable to give inner peace. It only makes us want more of created things and external securities. Worldly peace sets us off on an endless search for more things to have and enjoy, more achievements to attain, and more external circumstances to render conducive to our taste.
But Jesus’ peace is not a promise, but a gift, a gift that abides in us, “Peace I leave it with you; my peace I give to you.” He never takes back His gift of peace but He never ceases to move us to grow in this peace by entering into an ever new and truer relationship with God. We must make a choice: do we want the false peace of this world or the abiding peace of Christ? We cannot have both.
Secondly, we must keep the word of God out of love for Jesus, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” The dwelling of the Triune God with us and in us is the source of our inner peace. Any good act done out of love for Jesus leads to an intensification of the divine indwelling in us. Jesus alone brings this filial love and obedience to us because He reconciles us with the Father and brings the Holy Spirit into our lives.
Thirdly, follow the Holy Spirit’s prompting because He leads us to deeper peace through our obedience to the words of truth, “He (Holy Spirit) will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” Because it is so easy for us to search for lasting peace in this world, the Spirit reminds and teaches us the way to true peace in God alone. The Spirit moves us to become more like Christ, to act in faith, hope, love; to forgive, pray, serve, and endure all out of love for Christ. The Spirit intensifies and makes our relationship with God more fruitful by constantly moving us to know and to love Christ the more.
But how do we hear the voice of the Spirit today? The Spirit is speaking to us as we hear the teaching of the Church in matters of faith and morals. The peace of the early Church is disturbed by false teachings, “Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved.” This teaching “upset them and disturbed their peace of mind.” The words of the Apostles in the Council of Jerusalem in response to the crises show how the Spirit teaches and acts through human instruments to restore peace to the troubled Church, “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and us.” We also hear the voice of the Spirit in the words of scripture that we read and listen to. Lastly, we hear the voice of the Spirit in the sufferings of others, those “whose peace of mind has been disturbed.” Our challenge today is to hold on to that which the Church teaches authoritatively, allow ourselves to be interiorly challenged by the scriptures we read and meditate upon, and then respond to the needs of others.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, are living in fear or are we crowding out fear in our hearts by holding on to the peace of Christ in today’s world, growing in this peace and sharing it with others? Are we searching for peace in this world and ignoring the words of Jesus, “In this world you will have many tribulations.” Are we striving like Mother Mary to keep His words out of love for Him? “Blessed is she who hears the word and act on it.” Or do we obey only when it is easy, feels good, will win the esteem of others, etc.? Are we listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit who is challenging us to grow in our love for God and for others? Are we listening to the voice of the Spirit in the Church and her authoritative teaching? Lastly, are we completely satisfied now with our spiritual life and service of God today such that we are blinded to the room for growth in our relationship with God? If we are not holding on to that peace and growing in it through a more fervent relationship with God, fear will surely overcome us.
Jesus looks at us at this moment and He senses the fears about finances, family, terrorists’ attacks, health, etc that are slowly creeping into our hearts. He offers us His gift of peace that He won for us already by His death and resurrection. His peace is not a promise but a gift already given to us in baptism and renewed in the Sacraments of the Church, especially in the Sacrament of Confession. This peace is also nurtured through the word of God and our own willingness to enter ever deeper in our relationship with the Triune God dwelling with us and in us.
As we enter into Holy Communion with Him in this Eucharist, we recall that He shed His blood for the forgiveness of sins and to bring us into that source of lasting peace – the new and true relationship with God. He desires our peace more than we desire it and in that peace we have the only remedy against fear. In addition, His Spirit is constantly moving us to enter into new levels of relationships with God and with others.
Fear will always try to creep into our hearts in this world. But if we hold on to this peace of Christ, grow constantly in this peace, and share this peace with others in need, we shall slowly but surely crowd out fear from our hearts in this world.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!