KEY VERSE: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you” (v.27).
Today’s Liturgy gives us a profound meditation on the nature and meaning of the Church.
The Church is One, as we see in the First Reading: “the Apostles and presbyters in agreement with the whole Church.”
The Church is Holy, taught and guided by the Spirit that Jesus promises the Apostles in the Gospel. The Church is Catholic, or universal, making known God’s ways of salvation to all peoples, ruling all in equity, as we sing in today’s Psalm.
And the Church, as John sees in the Second Reading, is Apostolic – founded on the twelve Apostles of the Lamb.
Last week we heard Jesus say, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” So says the Lord to the Church. What does this love mean, what does it look like?
To discover this, we have to look to Jesus. And when we do that, the first thing we see is that it has nothing to do with how we feel inside; it’s about how we choose to act; it’s about what we do. So, we know that, in part, love looks like turning one cheek when the other has been hurt; it looks like going two kilometres when one is unfairly asked; it looks like offering prayers in response to insults.
We know that it looks like a father welcoming home a son who was lost; like paying a full day’s wage to a worker who showed up an hour before quitting time—and it looks like rejoicing in each of these. It looks like losing your life in the hope of finding it; and it looks like obedience to a God who will tell us neither the specifics of our task nor the consequences of our faithfulness.
It looks like all of that, and much, much more. But really, finally, and at its clearest, it looks like this. It looks like a cross—it looks like the cross. This is what we Christians really mean when we talk about love. And if we ever mean anything else, then we most certainly mean something less—and we are unfaithful to our Lord, and we mock his commandment. This cross is what it means for God to love us; this is what it means for us to love one another. You won’t find this on bumper stickers, in cheap novels, or in plain brown envelopes. But it can be found.
That’s really the central thing I have to say about love. We must constantly be reminded of this, lest we reduce our faith to another cheap route to self-delusion or to empty self-gratification.
So, to find out what John means when he says that God is love, or to discover what it looks like to love one another as Jesus has loved us, we do not look deep within ourselves, we do not look around us, or at our families, or at our society or at the natural world. Instead, we look to the Lord, and to his life—to all of his life. There we will find, in all its depth and simplicity, what we Christians really mean when we talk about love. And there we will find life.
Jesus said to his disciples in the Gospel of John 14:23-29,
I have said these things to you while still with you; but 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.
Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
The truth that Jesus relayed to the disciples is the same truth that should provide comfort for me and you. This gospel says to me that we don’t have to go through life in pain, scared, or with the expectation of being defeated. We should instead remain close to God, find peace in knowing that God is always with us, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us through in the Church. This should fill us with confidence, free us to worship with exultation, inspire us to rededicate our lives to His Name – to love Jesus in our keeping of His Word, to rejoice that He and the Father in the Spirit have made their dwelling with us. We don’t know what the future holds, but we know Who holds the future.