Parting Gifts

A Reflection for the 6th Sunday of Easter (Year C).
Acts 15:1-2, 22-29 – Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23 – John 14:23-29.

When you look back over your life to date, probably you (like me) remember with joy being given presents by those who love you to celebrate your birthdays and to mark milestone anniversaries. Maybe you’ve received leaving presents as you left a job or ended a period of service as a volunteer. Your colleagues will have wanted to show you their appreciation by means of a present as you left. People from many cultures mark the parting of ways from those they’ve been close to by giving them a gift. The intention is to give them something tangible as a reminder that they keep the recipient in their heart long after they have all gone their separate ways.

We are approaching the Solemnities of the Ascension and of Pentecost. The giving of gifts today is a pointer to these coming Major Feasts. And what are the gifts being given to us by the Lord? They are the promise of the descent of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son, and the peace of Christ in our lives.

The promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit: The eternal communion of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit in One God is set out for us in St John’s Gospel. We already know that God the Father and the Lord Jesus are One (Jn 10:30) and that Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit and power (Ac 10:38). Jesus also promised His disciples that He will send them the Holy Spirit who comes from the Father (Gospel v.26), and He did! When Our Lord breathed on His disciples, He said to them: receive the Holy Spirit (Jn 20:22). He breathed into them the Holy Spirit, who is God also, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity. All these serve to confirm what we assert in the Creed, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Jesus told the disciples that He was parting from them, making way for the Holy Spirit to descend upon them. He declared: It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (the Holy Spirit) will not come to you; but if depart, I will send Him to you (Jn 16:7). In that sense, the Holy Spirit is the parting gift to the world from Our Lord Jesus. His gift to us links us in our hearts and lives directly to Him

The gift of divine peace in our lives: What is “the peace of Christ”? The peace of Christ is infinitely greater than mere absence of war, desperately desirable though that is. The peace of Christ transcends the worldly sense of peace (Jn 14:27) and resonates with the “shalom” of wholeness and well-being, of inner tranquillity and fulfilment. “Shalom” is peace with God, peace with our neighbour, and peace within ourselves. Divine peace delivers a foretaste of heaven while we are still here on earth. We can enjoy eternal life in the present tense, with nothing preventing us from a great relationship with God, and with nothing destroying our peace of soul.  Even in the face of worldly strife and adversity, even when serious issues directly affect life itself, Christ’seternal peace is available and accessible to keep us strong. Christ’s peace is strong enough to keep us together no matter what trials, persecutions, worries, internal issues, pressures or disagreements afflict us.

Christ’s parting gifts to us are the Holy Spirit and His Peace. The inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the sharing of Christ’s peace are undoubtedly humanity’s most pressing needs. Christ embodied perfect peace on earth and, moreover, He gave Himself to us as the perfect gift. If everyone in the world were too pen themselves willingly to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and to invite the peace of Christ into their lives, then the world would become heaven on earth. That was the experience of St John in his vision of the holy city (2R) …the land of divine peace into which he was led by the Holy Spirit.

In today’s 1st reading, the early Church was going through a turbulent period. It was through the power and the action of the Holy Spirit that the apostles came to understand how to reconcile the Jewish and Gentile members. We too need the power and the action of the Holy Spirit in our decision-making. The Holy Spirit is the Advocate who pleads our cause before the Father. He is our Teacher and Guide. We need the Holy Spirit in our efforts to bring God’s peace and reconciliation to the peoples of the world. We need Him to lead each and every one of us to the eternal city of peace, in heaven and on earth.

The Holy Spirit can only rest within hearts that are open to the peace that Jesus gives us, and within hearts that walk in the truth (3Jn:3) of Jesus who IS the Truth (Jn 14:6). As we open ourselves to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the Peace of Christ, I pray that Christians everywhere may become the instruments of divine peace in the world. Amen. God bless you.