Sixth Sunday of Easter

When two friends or relatives unavoidably separate for what they know will be a considerable length of time, they make a commitment to stay in touch somehow. There are fewer excuses not to do so in the modern world - cards and letters have given way to faster and immediate means of communication such as Facebook and besides texts and emails, we have Skype and the like. While often ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ somehow over the passage of time, both people's lives change as newer lives and work commitments take shape, and newer friends are made. The same regularity and enthusiasm  for contact isn’t there for some reason. Eventually birthdays and Christmas are the only reminders of the friendship. How are we to keep the spirit of friendship alive?

But added to that, the permanent separation of death as I discussed last week brings even more challenges to keep the memories alive. To somehow remember the one loved and lost but yet to let go and move on as well is a delicate challenge. Not to dwell in the past but to see the preciousness of life at all, of living life to the full, the fullness of life that the parted one would want for us, not squandering time or talents, but being the best version of myself that they would want me to be and to keep the spirit of love for them alive.

This is what Jesus asks of us in the Easter season.

 There are as it were, two departures of Jesus, His death on Good Friday, and his ascension into heaven which we re-commemorate next week.

We are in the middle of these partings.

And if we can imagine Jesus ‘packing to go’ as anyone close to us leaving us to go on a long journey, there are the last minute jobs, the parting instructions and the personal words of re-assurance that we will see each other again. There are also parting gifts. Today Jesus’ last words of advice and comfort are ‘do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.’ And ‘peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give.’

External (worldly) things – not wrong in themselves – can and do give temporary, but not lasting, peace. And only Jesus gives us peace we all seek.

Riches make you comfortable, but not happy. There is no geographical cure for worry.

The amazing thing about peace is that it is somehow gently infectious. We see people calm and collected in a crisis, people unperturbed at a delay in traffic or in an airport or shopping queue, a patient parent with a stroppy child, a person – maybe a saintly person – who radiates joy and peace and kindness. We see a parent with a special needs child, and somehow our worry (and our lack of patience) pales into significance. They have inner peace. And we want that for ourselves! Not that their lives are cross-free, but they have some ‘secret’ of happiness and contentment amidst the trials of life. They do not seek, or do not need to seek, peace through diversion into addiction or compulsive behaviour.

The Spirit that Jesus will give is the Spirit of peace. Jesus first words to His disciples at his resurrection were ‘peace be with you’ as He breathed the Spirit on them.  The peace He gives them then is tied up with the forgiveness of sins. And that is a step all too few make – to seek the peace that a guilt-free conscience can bring in the sacrament of Reconciliation (confession).

The Spirit gives us peace through the sacraments that we receive of Baptism and Confirmation and the Eucharist – and we keep the spirit alive in our hearts also in the practice of fidelity to daily prayer.  

We must ask ourselves therefore what kind of spiritual lives we lead. The acid test is the level of worry and anxiety we experience and what means we turn to in order to cope in the long term. The modern world offers us counselling and meditation techniques instead of what God through His Church, i.e., the sacraments and prayer, can offer for free! A peace the world cannot give - that is my gift to you. The Spirit of peace – Christ’s parting gift - keeps our relationship with Christ alive in our hearts. As we prepare to say farewell at His Ascension we thank Him for the gift of the Spirit in our hearts.

Peace be with you!

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