Jesus is very clear in the Gospel today: “Whoever loves me will keep my word…” He did not talk about continuing the traditions and customs of some particular culture; He sent the Holy Spirit to remind us of His words and example and then directed us to go out to all the world to tell the Good News. It isn’t about how we do our stuff versus how somebody else does their stuff; it is all about love and service, kindness and humility, gentleness and mercy. In such a divisive, polarized and fractured world His are the words we need to hear and to follow. We are to love one another, to treat each other with love and respect (even if we dislike the other person) no matter what the circumstance. This is the struggle: to do this, to act this, to love like this when people and their issues drive us to distraction, discomfort and yes, sometimes, even hatred. We need to remember to hate the sin and not the sinner. That is a struggle; as we tend to be defined by what we think, how we act and who we follow. Again—these struggles do not lead to any peace of heart and mind…
The acts of the apostles bringing the Good News to the Gentiles and the “Behold, I make all things new” passage from Revelation (last weekend) are coupled in uncanny fashion with the Gospel of the last supper today. We pick up the story from where, prior to entering into his passion, Jesus has just finished washing the feet of his disciples. “I give you a new commandment,” He tells them. “Love one another as I have loved you.” He calls this not a suggestion or good advice, but an outright a commandment. As in, on the same level as the Ten Commandments—only new and even more important!
The context here is a reminder that the salvation won by Christ for us has come with our responsibility to earn it—not just by abiding by the “thou shall not’s” but by actively living lives of compassion, humility, mercy, justice and above all, love. That’s easy enough to understand with the ones closest to you, but what about those with whom you have the greatest differences? Those with whom you simply cannot see eye to eye? Yes, them too. Enemies? Yes, them too. Love is often difficult, but it’s the new command from our Lord himself. We’re reminded of the “why” in the words of the Institution Narrative from the Eucharistic Prayer: Christ’s blood shed for “the new and eternal covenant.” The ultimate price paid by the Lamb of God has made all things new. Let us in turn heed the one command given so clearly for us and our chance at new life. “Whoever loves me will keep my word…”
So, how do we attain a peaceful mind and spirit in the midst of this world’s chaos? Keep the word of Christ and strive to always follow His example in the face of any and all experiences. Knowing how to speak and act regardless of situation should at least give us the peace of Christ in choosing our behaviors. Knowing how and what to do takes away the agony of choosing to commit sins of selfishness, thoughtlessness, revenge, greed, violence in thought and deed. Knowing how to behave can give us peace.
Today as we hear Jesus’ farewell discourse at the Last Supper promising us the Holy Spirit, God’s way to still be among us—we are reminded of all we have been told and taught by Jesus. “I am going away and I will come back to you.” We continue to build the kingdom of God on earth with the Spirit and in the peace of Christ. This peace is the peace of faith and belief: we always have God’s love and forgiveness; we know that we will rise again. We live in peace knowing that no matter what our burdens and crosses, we ultimately triumph with Christ over sin and death.
We have the opportunity to experience peace as we strive to live in the Spirit, to do better, to work for our salvation. This gives us the courage to live fully in the face of all our trials and tribulations. This is the peace of Christ! Our prayer and our work are to be an instrument of that peace. Live Christ’s peace in this world!