6th Sunday of Easter 2019
Acts 15:1-2,22-29; Rev 21:10-14,22-23; John 14:23-29
“If anyone loves me, they will keep my word.” What does it mean to keep Jesus’ word? It means to retain it, to absorb it into ourselves, to let it become part of us, to live by it. It is less a matter of knowing it by heart—a parrot can do that—than of taking it to heart, making it live within our heart.
“And my Father will love them, and we shall come to them, and make our home with them.” To be loved by the Father and the Son is all that we can desire: to have Them make Their home with us is more than we can desire.
God loves us and makes His home with us. Are you and I conscious of the presence of God with us, of His dwelling within us? It may feel that God is far away, that He hides His face from us, yet in reality He is dwelling deep within us. The sense of His absence is the greatest indicator of His presence, for it is a sharing with us of the Passion of His Son, the fullest sign of His love. No matter what our feelings may suggest, the reality is that God lives with us and in us, and that He will keep us from harm.
“The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all I have said to you.”
The Holy Spirit is constantly at work in us, reminding us of the words of Jesus, reminding us of His presence, constantly confirming us in the love and service of God. We are drawing near to the feast of Pentecost, when we pray for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit, yet we should never forget that the Spirit is poured out on us very day, literally inspiring--breathing into—us, charging and recharging us with God’s life.
“Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you—a peace which the world cannot give, this is my gift to you.”
What is this peace which Jesus promises? It is not peace as the world sees it, not an absence of struggle or stress. During the week, Abbot Cuthbert quoted Cardinal Basil Hume’s Episcopal motto “Pax inter spinas”, peace among thorns, and our own Bishop has taken as his motto some words of Blessed John Henry Newman: “Sanctitas praeter pacem”, holiness before peace.
Jesus’ gift of peace is indeed HIS gift: it is not something of our manufacturing. Nor is it something which we should be looking for as an end. As Newman said, what we should be looking for is holiness, the fulfilment of God’s will: Jesus will bestow His peace as and when He chooses, and it will probably come among thorns, entailing struggle, difficulty, and what may seem to be the opposite of peace.
If our aim is a peaceful life, we shall end up settling for mediocrity. If our aim is to live the life of God dwelling with us, then Jesus will give us His peace, though we may not recognise it as such.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” Sometimes we are like Martha, worrying and fretting about so many things when, as the Lord said, “few are necessary, indeed only one.” What matters is that we should be seeking God’s will. Then, He will not let us fall out of His hands, however much we may feel that we are making a mess of things. We need to hold onto that conviction, which should banish fear.
“I am going away and shall return.” The Lord HAS returned, not yet in glory, but in His gentle indwelling, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, standing with us in the turmoil and the pain of life, sharing with us His own puzzling and not always immediately recognisable gift of peace.