We all know people who have left a memorable legacy after their death. Often a fond memory, a kind word, a favorite treat, a silly joke, or ready smile lives on long after the person has died. Recent history has given ample evidence of many people who have left behind a legacy of courage and hope that have enhanced the quality of life in our world. When Jesus knew that the time for his departure was drawing near, he told his disciples that his legacy would be his gift of the Holy Spirit and his gift of peace. These gifts would sustain them for all time until he returned.
The gift of the Holy Spirit allowed the disciples to recognize the presence of the risen Christ in their lives. That same Spirit continues to teach and reveal God’s presence to those who listen and believe. It is that same Spirit who empowers disciples to meet the challenge of bringing gospel values to the world, even among cultures that ignore and dismiss them as unrealistic, outdated or irrelevant. This legacy is a constant and ever-present force that strengthens and nurtures our efforts to bring peace to our world.
The presence of the Spirit causes us to be responsive to new insights, reforms and renewals. Even though many of our days are very much alike, there comes an unexpected instant when the action of the Spirit awakens us to God’s presence. As brief as it may be, all the rest of our days are changed. Something has happened to us because an experience pressed itself upon us that we can’t explain nor did we merit. No matter how hard we try, we cannot relive the experience simply by remembering it. It is gift. It is grace. It is the Spirit moving where it chooses.
Do not misunderstand. It is not a St. Paul experience that knocks us speechless, but a profound realization that we are not alone, but intimately connected to a power of love and peace that we cannot comprehend or explain. Then Jesus’ words from today’s gospel take on new meaning because we have encountered the “peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.” Theologian Raymond E. Brown stated it this way: “Jesus bequeathed to his disciples a legacy of peace. Not merely the absence of war or the cessation of tension, but the peace that pertains to the salvation of humanity. Peace is the great gift that Jesus has brought from God to the world. ‘My peace I give to you’ is another way of saying, ‘I give you eternal life.’”
This peace does not create some magical line drawn in the sand protecting us from violence, but a supernatural peace that is real and final. The hostility that sin creates is healed and bridged, once and for all, by this holy peace given by the very breath of Jesus himself. This is his shalom, his legacy that encompasses our lives where justice, joy and truth reign. Then we experience life where absolutely nothing is lacking, and we strive urgently to pass it on to others.
In their pastoral letter entitled, The Challenge of Peace, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops clearly state: “Peacemaking is not an optional commitment. It is a requirement of our faith. We are called to be peacemakers, not by some movement of the moment, but by our Lord Jesus.” [#333] The gift of peace we have been given is meant to be shared so that others can know and grow in peace, and in the knowing, may the world come to experience the power of that peace. ~ Deacon Wilson Shierk