Dear Ascension Family,

First of all, I would like to congratulate the children of our Religious Education Program who had their first confession as well as their first Holy Communion last May 14 and 21. I thank Sr. Genevieve and all the volunteer catechists who prepared the children for those great moments of their lives. Let us continue to pray for them that they may grow not only physically but also in the wisdom and the grace of God in the midst of a secular, technological and perhaps atheistic society we are in.

Fear plays a great part in our lives. We fear so many things! We fear sickness, accidents, failures, loss of job, not being able to pay the mortgage, marriage breakup, the death of a loved one, old age, and so on. The list is endless. Our fear can be unreasonable, because fearing what can happen to us is really a waste of time, since most of the things we fear will never happen. Moreover, even if a few of the things we fear do eventually happen, fearing them in advance forces us to endure them twice: once in imagination and once in reality.

“Do not be afraid!” is an exhortation often repeated in the Bible. In the gospels alone we see Jesus telling his disciples many times, “Do not be afraid.” For example, in today’s gospel reading Jesus tells his disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” The emotional state of the disciples is understandable because this is the night of the Last Supper and the prospect of Jesus’ death at the hands of his enemies weighs heavily upon them. Yet, it is clear that Jesus himself is not troubled or afraid. Rather, he is at peace and he offers the gift of his peace to his troubled and fearful disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.

Jesus’ peace is rooted in his loving relationship with God his Father. He knows himself to be eternally loved by his heavenly Father. He also knows that beyond death he will be going to the Father whom he loves. Jesus is at peace in the loving embrace of God his Father. He wants his disciples and all of us to experience something of his own peace. Jesus shows us we can still be at peace within ourselves because we know in our heart that, in the words of St. Paul, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Our sense of God’s love for us, our love for God in return, and the future destiny that loving relationship holds out for us, gives us a share in the Lord’s own peace, regardless of the situation in which we find ourselves. St. Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians, spells out this point. He writes: “Five times at the hands of the Jews I received forty lashes. . .Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I passed a night and day on the deep. . .in toil and hardship, through many sleepless nights, through hunger and thirst. . .”(2 Cor 11:24-27). Obviously such hardships as these are hardly what the world would define as peace. Yet, that is precisely what Paul would call them – Christ’s peace.

When Jesus appeared to the apostles after the resurrection he didn’t blame them or even scold them for failing him. Instead, he broke through the closed doors of fear and doubt and spoke the words they desperately needed to hear. He said, “Peace be with you.” And by means of those lovely words he turned their despair into hope, and their sadness into joy.

Blessed are we if we taste the peace of Jesus – the peace which this world cannot give, a peace which can exist in the midst of a troubled world, and even in the midst of unresolved problems. Peace is God’s gift to us, but it can also be our gift to one another.

Jesus promised the gift of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus called the Advocate to help give God’s peace to us. The word “Advocate” comes from the Latin word “advocatus” which means a mediator, a defense attorney, one who stands by you in time of need. In time of trouble, it is a great comfort to have a lawyer take our side. What the lawyer does for pay, the Holy Spirit does for love. What the lawyer does with the possibility of failing, the Holy Spirit does with a guarantee of success for those who do their part.

Jesus’ life has been all about God who sent him, not about himself, and in this sense Jesus can say in today’s gospel passage, “the Father is greater than I.” Jesus is leaving his disciples because of his obedient love of the Father that will take him through death into the glory of the resurrection that the Father will bestow upon him. Jesus and his Father will share this glory and love with us, his disciples, through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has been at work through all the centuries and is still at work. We may have the grace to cooperate with him.

Praying for you all,

Fr. Anacleto