PEACE IN THE CHURCH
In John’s Gospel we can read a series of discourses in which Jesus is saying goodbye to his disciples. The commentaries call it «The Farewell Discourse». It is permeated by a very special atmosphere: the disciples are afraid of being left without their Teacher. Jesus, for his part, insists that they will never feel his absence, in spite of his leaving.
Up to five times he repeats that they can count on «the Holy Spirit». This Spirit will defend them, since the Spirit will keep them faithful to Jesus’ message and to his project. That’s why this Spirit is called «the Spirit of the truth». Along the way, Jesus better explains to them what will be the Spirit’s job: «The Defender, the Holy Spirit… will be the one who teaches you everything and reminds you of all I have said to you». This Spirit will be the living memory of Jesus.
The horizon that he offers his disciples is expansive. From Jesus will be born a great spiritual movement of disciples who will follow him, defended by the Holy Spirit. They will be kept in his truth, since that Spirit will teach them everything that Jesus has been communicating with them as they walked along the roads of Galilee. That Spirit will defend them in the future from confusion and cowardice.
Jesus wants them to understand well what the Spirit of the truth and the Defender will mean for them: «Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you». He doesn’t just wish them peace. He gives it to them. If they live, guided by his Spirit, remembering and keeping his words, they will know peace.
It’s not just any peace. It’s his peace. That’s why he tells them: «I don’t give you a peace that the world gives». Jesus’ peace doesn’t build strategies inspired by lies or injustice, but one that acts with the Spirit of the truth. They need to be rooted in that Spirit: «Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid».
In these difficult times of discredit and confusion that we suffer in the Church, it would be a serious mistake to try to defend our credibility and moral authority by acting without the Spirit of the truth promised by Jesus. Fear will keep penetrating Christianity if we seek to establish our security and our peace by distancing ourselves from the path he blazed.
When peace is lost in the Church, it’s not possible to recover it in just any old way or by serving any old strategy. With a heart full of resentment and blindness, it’s not possible to bring Jesus’ peace. It’s necessary to be humbly converted to Jesus’ truth, activating all our energies in order to leave behind wrong paths, and allowing ourselves to be guided by the Spirit that enlivens Jesus’ whole life.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf