Apr 30, 2016

Sixth Sunday of Easter


If there was one line in the gospel we have just heard and is worth remembering again and again, it is this. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” (John 14:27)

Our Lord have left us a gift. But this gift is not placed on a shelf to be discovered, looked at with admiration or curiosity. Nor is it placed somewhere remote or hidden and then we are asked to search for it -  like a game of hide and seek.  Nor is it something like an online gift registry where Our Lord highlights certain essential items he has chosen for us to make our lives more meaningful and all we have to do is scroll down the list and check off what we are in need of!

Instead, he tells us that he "leaves" us this gift, and then immediately tells us he “gives” it to us. In other words, Christ personally gives us this gift, right into our hands. He leaves it in our safekeeping. He trusts us with its ownership. It has been given!

Of course, his gift is the gift of peace. But let’s be careful. When we think of peace we are often tempted to think of it only in terms of what happens “after” a period of violence, anger or hostility - like the calm “after” the storm. That type of peace is more often a “relief”, a cherished opportunity to catch one’s breath again, an opportunity to begin to restore what was broken or destroyed. Of course, these opportunities must be continually welcomed.  

But Christ clarifies - the origin of his gift of peace does not come from defeating the enemy, or negotiations, compromise or settlements, important as these elements may be in particular circumstances. “Not as the world gives, do I give it to you,” Christ reminds us. In other words, the peace Christ gives belongs to him - it is his, it is a gift  of himself to you and me. This gift comes directly from the heart and soul of God himself!

Particularly during this special jubilee year, we have become very familiar and exposed to the gift of Divine Mercy - the cleansing purity of God’s love channeled through the heart of Christ to each one of us - the joyful experience of freedom through God’s forgiveness of our sins.  With Divine Mercy, let us also be familiar and embrace “Divine Peace”, who is also Christ himself.  

He “leaves” this gift of divine peace to the Church for her to be a constant witness to the world of his Gospel message. He continually “gives” us this divine gift of peace, every time we reject the ugliness of anger, revenge, violence and war, “while” turning to him as the source of true peace and justice on “earth as it is in heaven”.

As Our Lord sought to assure his disciples, he assures us now, “Do not let your hearts be troubled”. Yes, we can easily let ourselves be troubled by the direction we sometimes see the world going. But by allowing “our hearts” to be troubled, (for the heart is where Christ speaks to us), we can easily be caught up in the same wave of self-destruction we seek to avoid, and we no longer become credible witnesses of the Gospel of Christ.

As a pastor of souls, I would therefore suggest, seek out places where you can hear Christ gently speaking to you. Find time to be quiet, away from the noise and pollution of the world (and do not be afraid to switch off the computer and put away the smartphone!) Christ walked along the roads and pathways of this world, he didn’t run around putting out fires or responding to everyone who wanted attention! How can our hearts be troubled if we allow Christ to guide us through the valley of darkness at “his own pace”, allowing us to be attentive to his gentle, unhurried voice?

Finally, Christ assures us through today’s Gospel that the Holy Spirit will remind us of everything he has said. This is accomplished at every Mass, through the words that follow the Lord’s Prayer when we ready ourselves for Holy Communion: We hear again Christ’s words, “Peace I leave you, my peace I give you”.  We will then be asked to extend to others, to be instruments, not of our own understanding of peace, but the gift of divine peace that comes from the heart of Christ.

So, do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. Reclaim and accept the gift of peace that is of God’s own making, always finding the time to rejoice and give thanks that our heavenly Father so very much loved the world (even in its sinfulness) that he sent his Son to live among us, walk with us and guide us along the right path.

He Ascended into Heaven

Not so long ago, I had the opportunity, a privilege, to offer the graveside prayers at our Catholic cemetery in San Diego. Founded in 19...