6th Sunday of Easter
The scene is the Last Supper – the night of Jesus’ betrayal and arrest. It is the last opportunity He has to speak at length with His disciples and so it does not surprise us the he leaves the best till last.
This Sunday’s Gospel contains hints to prepare us for the next 2 Sundays – Ascension and Pentecost – Jesus at the Last supper with his disciples tells them of his imminent departure from them and His return to the Father; and of the promise of the Spirit who will lead them to all truth and who will remind them of all He Himself taught them.
Have you ever had the experience of visiting someone in hospital you knew who was terminally ill? I have often had this experience with parishioners and more recently with a friend who died recently - I never knew which visit would be my last. It is this kind of atmosphere that is the context of Jesus’ words in the Gospel today. Jesus is saying, ‘I am going away, but I shall return.’ In effect He is saying ‘I am not going to be around much longer but there is something I want you to do for me and there is something I want you to have.'
They are His parting words and His parting wishes. His disciple John – under the influence of the Holy Spirit - has preserved these words for us as they are meant for us too and for all posterity.
Jesus has 3 things to say:
The first thing is that He is about to leave them.
It seems appropriate as at this time of the year actually priests are being told of their moves to other parishes. Another priest of the parish was told this time last year so all the priests are on the alert for the telephone call –maybe!
I remember not long after my arrival a parishioner gave out to me (not for the last time) – I don’t remember who – said ‘Father, if you hadn’t come, Fr X wouldn’t have left!’ So it was all my fault and I was under no illusion that in this person's mind I would never live up to my predecessor’s reputation.
The second thing he has to say is that he asks us to do something for him.
When someone is on the point of death we are conscious of any favour they might ask of us, and of course of any parting gift they might want us to have as a keepsake.
Jesus asks us to love Him and to keep His word. The Spirit helps the Church to remain true to His teaching so that the Church faithfully transmits and is faithful to the Word of God and that the Spirit is the guarantee of our certainty. Jesus asks us to be faithful.
The third thing he has to say is that He has gifts for them.What are your most cherished items, heirlooms?
I remember one day noticing an ornate pair of china vases on our mantelpiece at home. I had never seen them before. They belonged to my great grand parents and had been handed on to my grandmother and mother. My mother said – ‘do you think they would have lasted while I was rearing ye?’ They have survived for another generation to keep and admire and pass on. They are the most valuable heirlooms and are 120 years old. Another cherished item is the baptismal shawl that 50 of us members of the family have been baptised in. My most cherished item is a chalice. At ordination I received a gift of a chalice from my Parish Priest which he had used and which had belonged to his uncle. It dates back to the 1920s. I hope I can hand it on to another priest at the end of my days.
Items like these are cherished, kept intact, perfectly preserved, unbroken, and now of greater value, materially and sentimentally.
What is Jesus passing on?
He is sending us the Spirit. The Spirit is like a guarantee that we insist on when we buy something, something that is from the manufacturer! But the guarantee of the Holy Spirit is of lasting value, without an expiration date, forever – our salvation, eternal life.
He gives us peace, 'a peace the world cannot give'. We all strive for peace. The peace Jesus gives us through the Spirit is freedom from anxiety, uncertainty and confusion. The Spirit gives us certainty and therefore Hope. We restate these words very Mass before the sign of peace.
Let us seek Jesus – only in him through constant prayer can we obtain the peace we all seek.
Know Jesus Know Peace, no Jesus no peace!