Heal your memory and receive Christ’s peace

Fr Paolo Consonni, MCCJ

Sixth Sunday of Easter – Year C

“The Holy Spirit will remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives” (Jn 14:26-27).

The peace that the world gives is definitely unstable. Here we are again, dealing with a war which risks becoming global. Every time a war ends, we all cry out: “Never again”! It is so obvious that the advantages obtained through armed conflicts are disproportionately small in comparison with the amount of pain and destruction they leave behind. That is why, as all the recent popes have said, there is no such thing as a “just war.” The memory of these tragedies alone should be the best deterrent to prevent further violent conflicts.

In his latest encyclical, Fratelli tutti, Pope Francis warned that we should never forget, for example, the Shoah or the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Neither must we forget the persecutions, the slave trade and the ethnic killings that continue in many countries as well as the many other historical events that make us ashamed of our humanity. The Pope warned that “we do not progress without an honest and unclouded memory” (249). Memory and peace are connected.

Seeing the current situation of the world, we have to admit that our memory is often dishonest and clouded by the short-sighted perspective of our own self-interest. We all have a selective memory: we remember only what we decide to. And what we chose to remember, in turn, influences our decisions.

The mechanism behind a selective memory is humanly understandable. It is not easy to face our personal history or the history of our own country with an open mind and an open heart, seeking the whole truth, because truth is oftentimes painful and unsettling. Truth is attainable only through constant dialogue and when there is readiness to change and grow, i.e., to convert. This process requires a good deal of introspection, which includes revisiting old wounds and painful scars from the past. Not easy indeed. No wonder that our human capability to peacefully solve conflicts is often ineffective, even in our families and in the Church, let alone among nations.

If our memory is clouded, wounded, crippled by fears or the desire for revenge, then what it needs is healing. Only a healed memory is able to face the truth, and only in the truth can peace be achieved, both in our hearts and in societies. That is why we need the Holy Spirit.

Benedict XVI wrote that “The Spirit, in fact, is that interior power which harmonizes the hearts of the believers with Christ’s heart and moves them to love their brethren as Christ loved them, when he bent down to wash the feet of the disciples and above all when he gave his life for us. The Spirit is also the energy which transforms the heart of the ecclesial community, so that it becomes a witness before the world to the love of the Father, who wishes to make humanity a single family in his Son” (Deus caritas est 19).

Christ’s peace comes not from hiding problems, but by facing them with mercy, in the same way Jesus treated everyone he encountered. It comes not from exploiting weakness, but by looking at it with grace, because all of us have experienced God’s forgiveness of our sins. It comes not when we destroy or humiliate our enemy, but by offering them a way out of darkness into light, because we too have been saved by God from the snares of evil. It is fruit of sacrifice more than a display of power, because this is how Jesus reconciled us to God. The mission of the Holy Spirit is to remind us of Christ’s love, in every situation.

The Holy Spirit, as defined in the Catechism, is the Church’s living memory (CCC 1099). And the privileged place where the Holy Spirit refreshes and heals our memory is the liturgy, the memorial of the mystery of salvation, especially the Eucharist.

Here, an important clarification is needed. For us Christians, “the memorial is not merely the recollection of past events but the proclamation of the mighty works wrought by God for men. In the liturgical celebration of these events, they become in a certain way present and real” (CCC 1363). In other words, Christ’s peace is achieved not only by our efforts, not only through external structures, but especially by welcoming the action of the Holy Spirit which transforms us from within making us more Christ-like. The Liturgy helps us to experience that the action of the Holy Spirit is the here and now of our life: try to feel it and to believe it the next time you receive the Eucharist. Then the Spirit will remind you also of the last words of today’s Gospel: “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid” (Jn 14:27). Now more than ever we need to remember them.

(Photo: jplenio at Pixabay)