By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI
The world is craving for peace. In today’s gospel (Jn 14:23–29), Jesus tells His disciples that the peace that He gives is not the peace that the world offers. The reason why so many of us are “troubled” and “afraid” is because too often we, the followers of Christ, are yet to understand the meaning of this gift of peace. As well as the peace that Jesus gave to us, He promised that God would send the Holy Spirit to be our teacher, counsellor, helper, comforter, consoler, advocate.
The Holy Spirit is a gift given to us by the Father. Carl Olson quotes St Thomas Aquinas, “A gift is freely given and expects no return. Its reason is love. What is first given is love; that is the first gift. The Holy Spirit comes forth as the substance of love, and Gift is his proper name.”
Olson continues: “The Holy Spirit comes to guide ‘into all the truth’ (Jn 16:13)”; “strengthening ‘those who belong to Christ, standing beside them in support as they battle temptation, endure the trials of this world, and rebut the accusations of the devil, ‘the accuser’ (Rev 12:10).
“But the Holy Spirit is not just beside us, but resides within those who have been baptized; he is, as the Creed states, the ‘giver of life.’ The life he gives is the divine life of God, who is perfect love—an eternal exchange of divine love: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. ‘Whoever loves me,’ Jesus told his disciples, ‘will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.’ Filled with the Trinitarian life, we are made temples of the Holy Spirit. ‘Do you not know,’ St Paul asked the Corinthians, ‘that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?’” (1 Cor. 3:16; cf CCC 782, 1197).
In his Easter message, after the terror attacks that caused death and destruction in Sri Lanka, Pope Francis called on the risen Jesus to “end the roar of arms, both in areas of conflict and in our cities, and inspire the leaders of nations to work for an end to the arms race and the troubling spread of weaponry, especially in the economically more advanced countries.”
He prayed that “before the many sufferings of our time” that Jesus “may not find us cold and indifferent” and would “make us builders of bridges, not walls”.
The document, Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together signed by Pope Francis and Sheik Ahamad el-Tayeb, grand imam of Egypt’s al-Azhar mosque and university (Abu Dhabi, February 4, 2019), makes compelling reading.
They rightly state that peace demands that we adopt “dialogue as our path, mutual understanding as our code of conduct, and reciprocal understanding as our method and standard”.
Through the document they call upon themselves, “upon the leaders of the world as well as the architects of international policy and world economy, to work strenuously to spread the culture of tolerance and of living together in peace; to intervene at the earliest opportunity to stop the shedding of innocent blood and bring an end to wars, conflicts, environmental decay and the moral and cultural decline that the world is presently experiencing.”
As temples of the Holy Spirit we are called to be “peacemakers”. Pope Francis’ last public event in Bulgaria earlier this month was dedicated to peace. As Vatican News reported, the Holy Father said: “Each of us is called to follow in Jesus’ footsteps by becoming a peacemaker. Peace is both a gift and a task”, one we must pray for and work for, striving daily “to build a culture in which peace is respected as a fundamental right…
“Let there be peace on earth, in our families, in our hearts, and above all in those places where so many voices have been silenced by war, stifled by indifference and ignored due to the powerful complicity of interest groups. May each of us, wherever we may be, in all that we do, be able to say: ‘Make me an instrument of your peace’.”