“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives (peace) do I give it to you.”
The Farewell Discourse of Jesus (John 13-17), to which today’s
gospel belongs, is his last will and testament, wherein he gives his
apostles precious pieces of advice in order to help them live without his physical presence, after his departure.
First, he tells them-and us too, how best to express their love for him: Not by long prayers or endless processions, rosaries, novenas and votive candles, but by “keeping my word, ” by doing his will. Love is shown in deeds, not in words. Nothing wrong, of course, with prayers, so long as they help us discern and do God’s will.
To anyone who keeps his word, Jesus promises: “My Father will love him, and we will come to him.” We tend to associate God’s presence with the temple. The temple is the house of God, his dwelling place. Some people travel to faraway places (Rome, Holy Land) to visit famous basilicas and shrines, hoping to experience God’s presence. Jesus tells us that God is not to be sought in faraway temples. We do not need to travel at all. God dwells within us. We are God’s temple-so long as we keep hisword. In the second reading, the book of Revelation tells us that in the new Jerusalem there is no temple, “for its temple is the Lord God and the Lamb.”
Then Jesus promises further to send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who “will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you. ” The Holy Spirit will continue the work of Christ and will teach his disciples to apply the teachings of Jesus to new situations. We see this promise fulfilled in the Acts of the Apostles (read daily during the Easter season). And we will hear a lot more about the Holy Spirit in the coming days, as we approach the feast of Pentecost.
Some people wonder: “If the Holy Spirit teaches and explains everything, as Jesus says, how come he has allowed Christians to split into over 20,000 denominations?” The fault is not the Holy Spirit’s but ours. We have failed to understand that the Holy Spirit is with us, not just for our personal benefit but to build up the Christian community. In the first reading from the Book of Acts we hear how the Holy Spirit helped and guided the early Christian community in solving its first major crisis, namely, the acceptance of the Gentiles into the Church. Paul’s and Bamabas’ opinion ran counter to that of James, Peter and others in Jerusalem. All of
them probably thought that the Holy Spirit was on their side. However, they gathered together, and prayed and discerned together as a community. And the Holy Spirit did help them find a solution favorable to the whole community.
Lastly, Jesus bestows his peace to his disciples, and to us all: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” Not power, not money (which are usually the primary sources of violence and war), but peace. These precious words of Jesus have become part of the communion rite. We repeat them at every Mass shortly before holy communion. Jesus, however, adds an important distinction: “Not as the world gives [peace] do I give it to you. What is the difference between the peace of the world and the peace that Jesus gives? The peace of the world is often imposed by force. It is silence imposed by the winner. It is compromise; it is un-involvement; it is playing safe. It is the passing joy of getting our wishes and our whims fulfilled.
The peace of Christ, on the other hand, is not imposed from outside; it comes from within us. It is the peace and joy we experience when we do or hold on to what is right, when we fulfill the will of the Father–even if it means persecution and suffering; when we sacrifice our personal comfort for the good of others. The peace of Christ is that sense of satisfaction we have when we spend our life at the service of God and of fellowmen.