Chapters fourteen through seventeen of St. John's Gospel are often called the "Farewell Discourse." Such discourses are not unusual in Scripture. The Scriptures record such farewell addresses for Isaac, Moses, Joshua and St. Paul. Though each of these personalities have something different to say, they also have something in common; namely, they urge their followers to proclaim the message to all who may not have heard it.
St. John begins Jesus' farewell discourse with the powerful statement, "Do not let your hearts be troubled." Who of us has not had the experience of being disturbed, upset, confused or devastated by events in our lives? Yet the first words that St. John puts into the mouth of Jesus as he bids farewell to his disciples are "Do not let your hearts be troubled." (John 14:1)
This Gospel springs out of the community of the Beloved Disciple in Ephesus. It first appears at least sixty, perhaps seventy or eighty years after the Resurrection. In that space of time, the Christian community has been expelled from the synagogues because of their faith in Jesus. They have grieved with their Jewish brothers and sisters the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem. They have witnessed the martyrdom of many of their number, including the Twelve, at the hands of the Roman Empire. With each succeeding Roman emperor, they experience more and more the death of the eyewitnesses to Jesus' life, ministry, passion, death and resurrection. It is to this community that John counsels calm and peaceful resignation. "Do not let your hearts be troubled."
In the 2,000 years since the birth of Jesus, human history has experienced one traumatic event after another. Just in the year 2014, we have witnessed several such traumatic events: devastating fires in California, tornadoes that have destroyed entire communities in the Midwest, the kidnapping and exploitation of 200 girls in Nigeria, hundreds dying in a mining accident in Turkey, and the continuing loss of young lives in the war in Afghanistan. Is it any wonder that we find ourselves troubled at times? Yet the Gospel asks us to place our faith in Jesus. He promises to remain with us through the presence of the Holy Spirit. He also asks us to walk with him and declares that he is the way, the truth and the life. He is the authentic vision of human life. When we hold firm to our faith in Jesus, we can rest assured that he will always find a place for us that he himself has prepared for us.
Traumatic events will continue to plague our world. Our world and the people in it are imperfect, fraught with faults and frailties. To live in that world and among our brothers and sisters, we need a relationship with Jesus who has promised to be with us through the good and the bad, the highs and the lows.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator