Christ says to His apostles in today’s gospel, “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.”
How will God the maker of the universe dwell in someone? Imagine having God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit dwell in you. Jesus tells us that it is possible. Only keep his word. Jesus is the Word of the father. He is the Word made flesh for us. In the scripture, we read about God’s commandments. In the scripture, we understand the meaning of prayer. Christ reminds us that anyone who loves him would love his word each time the word is proclaimed. Jesus wants us to identify how to love God, and how to keep his commandments through keeping what the word asks of us. The Father, in return, loves the person who loves his word. A person who loves God bears God’s image before others.
Further, Jesus states, “Peace, I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”
What exactly comes to our mind when we hear of peace in today’s troubled world? This same reading is proclaimed in the universal church, so the same sacred scripture speaks to people in different circumstances and parts of the world. For instance, people in other parts of the world also receive this word and apply it as it relates to their lives. Come to think of it. What does peace mean for someone in Ukraine who constantly hears bomb blasts and shelling given the Russian invasion? What does peace mean for people in parts of Nigeria where there is Christian persecution, kidnapping, and killing? I am not sure what the promise of peace would mean for those from Cameroun who cannot even visit their homeland because of political unrest and insecurity. How about those starving in Venezuela?
Americans would also interpret the text based on their own socioeconomic and political circumstances. While responding to the subway shooting that happened in New York City last week, Gov. Kathy Hochul said, New Yorkers' "sense of tranquility and normalness was disrupted — brutally disrupted — by an individual so cold-hearted and depraved of heart that they had no caring about the individuals that they assaulted."
The world truly does not know peace currently. The reason is not hard to find because there are a lot of restless and troubled hearts. Do you know that the annual US suicide rate increased 30% between 2000 and 2020 from 10.4 to 13.5 suicides per 100,000 people?
Many hearts detest God’s word. Many hearts have abandoned God’s word. Many hearts even hate God’s word and therefore hate those who proclaim it. Rather than God dwell in such hearts, the devil has taken over inciting hatred, wickedness, and destruction. Christ warned clearly against this when he said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (Jn. 10:10). Today, many hearts base their satisfaction on material things. They feel frustrated once their desires are not satisfied, once their wayward demands and ambitions aren’t achieved. No lasting peace can come from the world because such peace does not reside here in this world. Material possession can never satisfy your innermost desire. Hence Jesus says, “Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.”
Christ goes even deeper, “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”
Let’s remember that Jesus is speaking to his disciples at a time when he was about to depart from the world. The disciples are concerned and afraid. One of the greatest causes of fear is the feeling of abandonment. That is what the disciples of Jesus are experiencing because their lives depend totally on Jesus. Taking him away from them generates separation anxiety and fear. You don’t want Jesus taken away from you because He is your peace.
The Holy Spirit is the advocate for peace. The Holy Spirit leads us in the direction of eternal peace. When Christ promises the disciples his gift of the spirit after his ascension, he is assuring them of his continued presence. We have received the Holy Spirit at baptism and most of us have received him at confirmation. How much does the Holy Spirit control and direct our actions?
The presence of the Holy Spirit strengthens us to know and do God’s will. St. Paul says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor. 3:17). There can be no better gift to ask for than the gift of Christ’s peace in our time.
It feels as if the world is losing it. Social media has taken over our inner peace. Social media has created a lot of unrest in the hearts of men and women and in particular the youth. There is social media anxiety because several people are simply controlled by it. Social media cannot give you lasting peace. Rather, it raises anxiety, the feeling that there is nothing we can do about our craziness.
What exactly is wrong with the world? If you look around, the economy seems to be getting worse by the day. Politics is becoming crazier each new day. The school system is becoming more disoriented. Science is becoming more unpredictable as new diseases show up. The church is succumbing to secular forces and letting herself be driven by conventional beliefs. Family life is under pressure. Young people seem to be getting confused. Some parents are nervous but afraid to stand by the truth of the gospel. The youth are asking more and more questions without getting convincing answers. Where lies our peace?
Christ speaks to us, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.” Christ’s peace is unique because it focuses us on eternity. Christ’s peace is not destroyed by hatred. Christ’s peace is rooted in the power of prayer and sacred scripture. It is found in union with Christ in the Blessed Eucharist, in the community, and friendship of those who have Christ’s peace. Christ’s peace is the fruit of the Holy Spirit: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23).
When Christ promises us the advocate who will teach us everything, he is reminding us of the source of joy and peace in our lives. He is inviting us to an ongoing relationship with the Father. Only such a relationship will guarantee serenity and calmness beyond what we are experiencing. The goal of Christ’s peace is to get us to eternal life. Eternity is where God dwells. Then, it makes sense when Christ says, ”…and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” God dwells in the hearts of the persons who have the peace of Christ.
Readings: 1st- Acts: 15:1-2, 22-29; 2nd- Rev. 21:10-14, 22-23; Gospel- Jn. 14:23-29