“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”
Our readings this Sunday give us a glimpse of the past, present and future of our faith and our salvation. The past is the struggles our early Church leaders went through in unifying their fledgling communities of love and sorting out God’s plan for them. The present is Jesus’ dual gifts of his Spirit to guide us and his blessed peace to sustain us. The future is John’s vision of the New Jerusalem to come (the entire people of God) that will be like a massive fortress, gleaming with the splendor of God and basking in the light of the Lamb.
In our first reading (Acts 15:1-2, 22-29)
, we hear of Paul and Barnabas’ great success in converting many Gentiles as disciples. But not without controversy, because those in Jerusalem expected them to conform to all Jewish laws, including circumcision. A council in Jerusalem, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, settled the matter.
Some who had come down from Judea were instructing the brothers, "Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved." Because there arose no little dissension and debate by Paul and Barnabas with them, it was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some of the others should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders about this question. The apostles and elders, in agreement with the whole church, decided to choose representatives and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. The ones chosen were Judas, who was called Barsabbas, and Silas, leaders among the brothers. This is the letter delivered by them:
"The apostles and the elders, your brothers, to the brothers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia of Gentile origin: greetings. Since we have heard that some of our number who went out without any mandate from us have upset you with their teachings and disturbed your peace of mind, we have with one accord decided to choose representatives and to send them to you along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, who have dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. So we are sending Judas and Silas who will also convey this same message by word of mouth: 'It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage. If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right. Farewell.'"
In our second reading (Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23)
, St. John describes what the New Jerusalem of paradise will look like in symbolic terms that the Jews of his day would have clearly understood. Despite their current trials, they had something to look forward to. “It’s radiance was like that of a precious stone.” “It had a massive, high wall, with twelve gates where twelve angels were stationed and on which were inscribed the names of the twelve tribes of the Israelites. It had “twelve courses of stones as its foundation, on which were inscribed the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” “The city had no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gave it light, and its lamp was the Lamb.”
In our Gospel reading (John 14:23-29)
, Jesus continues his farewell address to his disciples at the Last Supper. Here, he gives them two gifts that will guide them and sustain them in their difficult days ahead. The “Advocate”
is the Spirit of love between the Father and Son and will be their teacher and guide; the “Peace”
he leaves with them will comfort and sustain them like nothing the world has ever seen.
Jesus said to his disciples: "Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me.
"I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You heard me tell you, 'I am going away and I will come back to you.' If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe."
ur faith not only has a past and a present, but it has a future. No matter how dire or fearful our past has been or our present seems, our future is what God has planned for us. We remember that Jesus himself promised us, “Upon this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18).
Our future is the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven, where every tear shall be wiped away and God himself will provide the radiance and the light to warm us. In the meantime, we have the Holy Spirit to teach us and guide us and the Peace of Christ to sustain us. Ours is to believe it, and prepare our souls to receive it.
- Click HERE to read, reflect, pray on the scripture readings for this Sunday