domenica 1 maggio 2016

«Pacem relinquo vobis»

On these last Sundays of Eastertide we read in the gospel some passages from the long discourse delivered by Jesus during the last supper with his disciples. This speech is a farewell discourse, a kind of spiritual testament, whereby Jesus expresses his last will to the apostles.

Last week, if you remember, Jesus gave them the new commandment of brotherly love. Then he had told them that this commandment would be a kind of identification mark: “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Now he adds that keeping his word (that is, observing his commandment) is the way to show him our love: “Whoever loves me will keep my word … Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.” Ant that is the condition for us to be loved by God: “Whoever loves me will keep my word and my Father will love him.” At this point Jesus makes a surprising promise to his disciples: “We will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” Theologians have called this dwelling the “inhabitation of the Holy Trinity” within human soul. That is the essence of Christian life: today we emphasize so much our personal commitment—which is, of course, very important—but we often forget that, to be Christian, first of all there is need for God to dwell in us.

We are talking of the “inhabitation of the Holy Trinity.” Up to now Jesus has referred to himself as the Son and has called God “the Father.” Now he introduces another mysterious figure: the Holy Spirit. He calls him “Advocate,” in Greek the “Paraclete,” a very rich term that can mean a defense attorney, a spokesman, a mediator, an intercessor, a comforter, a consoler. Here he is presented as a kind of teacher: “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.” Meaning that, now that Jesus is leaving the world, the Holy Spirit will continue his mission on earth. Jesus’ mission is not yet accomplished: he taught his disciples, but they in most cases did not understand his words; so there is need of someone who reminds them of his teachings.

In the first reading we see the Holy Spirit in action in the early Church. There is a new problem: even pagans have joined the new faith; some of the Jewish Christians would like them to be circumcised. According to them, without circumcision they cannot be saved. What to do? Jesus had said nothing about that; the first disciples were all Jews; so at the beginning there was no problem; but now the situation has changed; there is need to find a solution. So they decide to convene a meeting of the apostles and elders, the so called “Council of Jerusalem.” They discuss among them; but they are not alone; there is with them the Holy Spirit. In fact, in the letter they send to Antioch at the end of the Council, they say: “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us...” The Holy Spirit will accompany the journey of the Church through ages until today.

Jesus does not limit himself to promise the Holy Spirit to his disciples; he leaves them a token of his love, a souvenir of his presence: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” For the Jews peace was the fullness of life; it was the messianic gift par excellence; now that Jesus is concluding his mission, he gives this gift to his disciples: they will experience this peace in their lives. But, watch out, this peace does not coincide with the worldly peace: “Not as the world gives do I give it to you.” True peace is not fruit of human efforts; it is a gift from on high: we can find peace only in Christ. We can experience this peace right in the middle of hostilities: Jesus’ peace is not just lack of violence or conflicts; it is an inward peace that we can enjoy even on a battlefield.

There is only one condition to experience all these things, faith: “I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe.” Only believing we can be inhabited by the Holy Trinity; only believing we can receive the Holy Spirit; only believing we can enjoy true peace.