Do Not Be Afraid!
May 12, 2020
Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Easter
“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. I will no longer speak much with you, for the ruler of the world is coming. He has no power over me, but the world must know that I love the Father and that I do just as the Father has commanded me.”
Opening Prayer: Lord God, little by little I contemplate the vast tapestry of your Last Supper discourse. There is enough love there to feed me for a lifetime! As St. John reclined on your breast during that solemn night, so grant me to rest my heart mystically on your heart, fount of love and graces.
1. Do Not Be Afraid: “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” Two things about this statement surprise us. The first is that Christ commands us. The second stems from the first: If Jesus commands us to not be afraid (and not to be troubled), it’s because we have a choice about whether to allow ourselves to fear (and be troubled) or not. Jesus is right to command our peace of heart because giving into fear and interior disturbance does not sanctify us, except in that God pities our weakness and showers his mercy on us in order to dispel our fears. He knows we will fear, but he wants us to be at peace. Jesus can command peace because his word causes what it expresses (see yesterday’s meditation). It’s true that sometimes Jesus is “away,” and our soul flounders in insecurities, but he also promises, “I will come back to you,” and peace returns.
2. So Much to Say!: Jesus’s Last Supper discourse is packed with meaning. In today’s excerpt alone, we have the assurance of peace, the promise of Jesus’s Ascension and subsequent return, the greatness of the Father, the purpose of Jesus’s warnings, the coming of the evil one, and the Son’s total devotion to the Father. This flood of ideas and feelings comes from Jesus’s wanting to say so much, and all at once! We have the advantage of having it all written down so that we can sift through it at a contemplative pace. And yet, the only way to understand Jesus’s words is to observe his actions, to search out his motives, to note his gestures and expressions—in short, to live with him. We must spend time with Jesus (especially in the Eucharist) if we want to understand and be transformed into him.
3. That Eucharistic Night: All of Jesus’s words in John 13-17 are in the context of the Eucharist. The reverse is also true; when we go to Mass and the Eucharist is consecrated following Jesus’s command, “Do this in memory of me,” we are also in the context of everything Jesus said that night. When we sit in the pew on Sundays, we are reminded of the gift of his Body and Blood, the institution of the priesthood, the law of charity, the washing of the feet—all the love, all the passion, his desire to save his friends, his human reluctance to die and yet complete adherence to his Father, and the mission of redemption. Just as Easter Sunday is our glory and Good Friday our strength, so should that night of love on Holy Thursday remain ever in our hearts, memories, and affections.
Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, if you command it, I will not let my heart be troubled or afraid. Give me the peace that comes from ardent love for you—not the worldly peace that comes from indifference. Speak to my heart as you spoke that night to your intimate friends.
Resolution: Lord, today, by your grace, I will read Psalm 27 with reverence. “The Lord is my light and my salvation; of whom should I be afraid?”
For Further Reflection: Jacques Philippe’s little book Searching for and Maintaining Peace. It is a marvelous aid in heeding Jesus’s command to rest in his peace.