As the Church’s season of Easter moves towards our celebration of Ascensiontide and Pentecost, we are taken back to John’s account of the Last Supper.
Last week we were reminded of Jesus’ giving us his new commandment … the commandment to love one another.
As we heard last week this new commandment was, and is, very specific.
Jesus went on to say: Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.
The notion of being prepared to love in such a self-sacrificial way is one that is anathema to many.
We can barely struggle through a day without some negative thought (or thoughts) about others dominating our minds.
Rather than feelings of love, we so easily succumb to feelings of anger, envy and resentment.
The notion of loving one another, as much as Jesus loves us, flies in the face of our human instincts to put self far ahead of everyone and everything else.
Of course, those negative feelings distance us from our loving God … in our certainty that we are always the ones in the right, we find ourselves weighed down with feelings of anxiety … anxiety that destroys the peace Jesus left with us as he returned to his heavenly Father.
In today’s reading from John’s gospel Jesus says: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
Then he goes on to say: I do not give to you as the world gives.
We are living through challenging times …
- many are still struggling with the fallout of the Covid 19 pandemic … both physical and mental;
- we are all feeling the effects of the cost of living crisis that is leading many into having to make choices between those things that we consider to be the ‘essentials of daily life’.
As our comfortable lives are being questioned and diminished in various ways, we find ourselves retreating into that corner where we wallow in anger and self-pity … we find ourselves even further away from obeying Jesus’ command to love as he loved us!
Of course, Jesus experienced every aspect of the human condition.
Jesus travelled, as we travel, the rocky road from birth to death;
Jesus knew that living in a Christ-like way would be hard and that we would need help.
And so, in today’s reading, we hear Jesus’ promise that that help was on its way: the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.
Jesus offers us the gift of his peace … a peace we can only truly experience if we live according to his commandment of love and service …
Jesus also promises help in travelling the Christian way … the Holy Spirit who inspires, guides and strengthens us as we journey the pilgrim road of mortal existence.
It is important that we remember that the promises made by Jesus in our gospel readings of both last week and this were made on the night before he faced a show trial and a brutal execution.
We need to remember that Jesus himself went from the Upper Room to a time of Agony before his betrayer led the Jewish officials to his place of prayer.
We need to remember that Jesus knew exactly what it was like to live in troubled and dangerous times.
But … we also need to remember that Jesus, the Christ, the Anointed One of God, chose to travel that road in order that we might be given the strength to walk the same way in our own time.
In our modern minds, peace often carries a deeply personalized meaning …
I will be at peace with myself;
I will find inner peace … for myself.
But the Greek word for peace, the word that we find in the gospel narrative carries a different meaning … rather than being inward looking it means national tranquility … that is peace between people.
In the face of the self-centred anger and greed of this world, Jesus is really saying: take heart; have courage; I will be with you for all time.
Jesus knew that there would be many times in which his followers would wonder whether it was worth the effort.
Jesus, in the final hours of his human existence, addressed those times and gave us the command to love and the gift of his peace.
We are Easter people …
We are people of the empty tomb …
We are people of the resurrection.
We KNOW what Jesus did for us … we now have to face up to the challenge of bearing his light, his love, and his peace into the dark and challenging world outside the comfort of our churches.
So … as Easter people … what acts of courage and faith will we perform in this world, in the name of our Lord and Risen Saviour?
- Will we love those who are difficult to love?
- Will we stand up for justice?
- Will we pray for those who persecute us?
- Will we welcome the stranger?
- Will we listen to the Holy Spirit, and then dare to follow where he leads us?
How will we live out the commandment to love one another as Jesus loved us?
Remember … and especially when the going gets tough … Jesus said:
Peace I leave with you.
My peace I give to you.
I do not give as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled
and do not be afraid.