The Farewell Discourse of Jesus Christ
By Fr. Regional Walsh, OP
TAKEN FROM HIS WORK, MEDITATION ON THE PASSION
With Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1922
1st Prelude: History.--- "Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in Me. If I shall go and prepare a place for you, I shall come again, and will take you to myself, that where I am you also may be." After the departure of Judas, Jesus addressed His Apostles in words of consolation and encouragement. He strengthens their faith, promises to send the Holy Spirit, and leaves them His peace.
2nd Prelude: Composition of Place.--- The Supper-room --- Jesus surrounded by His Apostles; the traitor is gone, so the atmosphere is pure, and the surroundings safe. Jesus is not among cold, indifferent, unbelieving souls, but surrounded by pure, childlike, loving hearts sincerely devoted to Him. Now He can speak heart to heart with His own. I shall keep close to my Lord and my God.
3rd Prelude: Ask what I want.--- Ah! more and more must I ask, and entreat and long for that grace of graces --- the intimate knowledge of my Jesus. O Mother, I have need of thee. Teach me to know and love thy Son.
Points: I. Our Lord's word of encouragement.
II. Proof of love.
Ill. "My peace I give to you."
OUR LORD'S WORD OF ENCOURAGEMENT
As Judas went out the white light of the Paschal moon shone into the room and fell full on the Master's face. It was pale and troubled, and its trouble was reflected on all the faces round. The disciples were so accustomed to lean on Him that they could only see with blank dismay the cloud upon that brow hitherto serene in every storm. A dim apprehension of coming sorrow, of parting from Him who was all in all to them, weighed heavily on them, and they looked at Him helplessly for comfort.
He did not disappoint them. Never before had His words been so tender. Now Jesus can lay aside all reserve and open His Heart to His own, giving them confidence for confidence and love for love. He can now communicate unreservedly the deepest secrets of His Heart. Little children, He said, looking around upon them --- they are His loved little ones whom Satan hates. "Yet a little while I am with you, you shall seek Me, but whither I go, you cannot come." Peter said to Him, "Lord, whither goest Thou?" Peter, though not sufficiently grounded in humility and mistrust of himself, has a strong love of our Lord, and is distressed at that word Jesus has spoken --- "Whither I go you cannot come." Ah, blessed Apostle, obtain for me some share in thy love for Jesus, and in thy desire to be ever near to Him, and a great sorrow if I am not where He is.
Jesus said: "Thou canst not follow Me now, but thou shalt follow Me hereafter." "Why cannot I follow Thee now? I will lay down my life for Thee." Peter presumes rashly that even now he can die for the beloved Master. Jesus answered him: "Wilt thou lay down thy life for Me? Amen, Amen, I say to thee, the cock shall not crow till thou deny Me thrice."
Peter deny the Master! The disciples are filled with apprehension. Of all the surprises tonight this was the greatest. Our Lord went on: "Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you that he may sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not, and thou being once converted confirm thy brethren." From St. John's narrative we gather that our Lord uttered this sad warning before the celebration of the Holy Mysteries. After the Institution of the Blessed Eucharist, Jesus again repeated the warning, wishing to check in Peter his presumption and self-reliance.
Every act, every word of our Lord's speaks of love. Jesus is about to leave His dear disciples, and must now give them His farewell instructions, which begin and end with words of loving encouragement. Jesus knew the importance of courage and confidence, and that without these they would never do great things for God. He knew, too, how liable we are to be discouraged and cast down when troubles and trials arise; how hard it is to struggle on when all seems dark around.
To us, as well as to the Twelve, He says: "Let not your hearts be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me." Why do we not believe more in Christ --- the loving Heart of Jesus, our Master --- trust Him more, appeal more to Him in times of desolation and darkness? He is always loving us, always pleading for us. O Jesus, make Thyself to me a living bright reality. He is the same Jesus yesterday, today, and for ever. He will always have a word of comfort for us --- "Let not your heart be troubled, I go to prepare a place for you. Be not afraid, it is I. Arise, and fear not."
The Apostles were in some trouble of mind, and not without reason. Why? (1) Because Jesus, their dear Master, had told them that He was going. (2) And that He was going whither they could not follow. (3) Because He had said that Peter would follow later, and had not given any assurance to the rest. (4) Because He had told them that one of them was about to betray Him. (5) And lastly, because He had said that Peter would deny Him before the cock-crow. Therefore Jesus begins to prepare them by saying: "Let not your heart be troubled --- you believe in God, believe also in Me." This is one of the many sentences whereby Jesus teaches that He is God, equal to the Father.
Our Lord wants to restore peace to their souls --- they must be in peace whilst He speaks to them. He begins by helping them to an increase of faith --- to believe in God and in Jesus means to believe in His omnipotent goodness. "Let not your heart be troubled. I go to prepare a place for you. And I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you also may be" --- the separation will be only for a time --- all His Own will rejoin Him.
It was by His Death, Resurrection, and Ascension that Jesus made all quite ready and opened the gates of Heaven. "And if I shall go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you also may be." (1) I will come again after My Resurrection. (2) I will come again in the Holy Eucharist. (3) I will come again and take you to Myself at the hour of your death --- if you are then ready.
"That where I am you also may be." This word comes from the very depth of our Lord's Heart. All His suffering life and His bitter death will be offered for this end. For this He took our human nature --- for this He gives us His Body and His Precious Blood in the Blessed Eucharist. To this end, too, our Lady will devote herself --- Our Lord might easily create as our eternal reward a Paradise unspeakably beautiful. But nothing can content His loving Heart but this --- "that where I am you also may be."
If this is our Lord's wish that throughout eternity, "where I am you also may be," how fervently we ought to answer in the words of Ethai to David: "In what place soever thou shalt be, lord my king, either in death or in life, there shall thy servant be." Look into the eyes of Jesus --- read there the love of His Heart for us --- each one --- dwell on this thought, that, if He wishes us to be with Him now in poverty, in labour, in lowliness, it is only that the union may be eternal in His Father's home.
O Passion of Christ, strengthen me, that I may with courage and a cheerful heart deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Thee, Lord Jesus. Let me pray earnestly for courage to die to myself and the world for my Blessed Master. Rabboni! Take and receive my entire liberty. Mother, I have need of thee!
PROOF OF LOVE --- RABBONI!
"He that hath My Commandments and keepeth them: he it is that loveth Me. And he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him."
Here Jesus carefully teaches us how true love shows itself. If you love Me keep My Commandments --- do My will. Love is proved by deeds! In all the circumstances of life, from its most important events to its least details, the will of our Lord must be my actuating principle. How happy I am as a Catholic, especially if a religious, for I can never be in doubt as to God's will --- that will is always made clear to me by obedience. By giving myself up to perfect obedience I prove my love for Jesus, for then, indeed, do I keep His Commandments --- do His blessed will.
Our Lord then adds this most powerful argument to move us to increase love in our hearts: "He that loveth Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him." If our poor, small, miserable hearts will love the infinite loveliness and goodness of God, then the Eternal Father and His only Son will, with all their boundless power of loving, love us.
"I will love him and will manifest Myself to him." Is it not then our want of love that keeps us in darkness and blindness; and hinders our Blessed Lord from manifesting Himself to us? Cleanse me, O God, O most kind and Merciful Jesus, from those hidden sins that deaden love in my soul. Mother of God, my mother, turn thine eyes of mercy towards me.
"Judas, not the traitor" --- St. Jude --- says to our Lord: "How is it that, Thou wilt manifest Thyself to us and not to the world?" The Apostle does not understand that our Lord, when He speaks of manifesting Himself, does not mean that He will render Himself visible to the eye, but through a lively faith, known to the soul. "Judas, not the traitor" --- happy, thrice happy the religious the Apostle of Jesus after whose name the blessed Angels can add, "not the traitor," not the sinner, or if once a sinner --- now quite contrite.
Jesus answers and corrects the mistake of His Apostle. "If anyone love Me, he will keep My Word, and My Father will love him; and We will come to him, and will make Our abode with him. He that loveth Me not, keepeth not My words." Jesus will not only manifest Himself to every soul that loves Him, but His Eternal Father will come with Him, and both will abide in that soul.
Here Jesus brings clearly before His Own the doctrine of the Trinity, mentioning distinctly the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost. Let me recall with sorrow those hours in the past in which I may have driven God, my Father, my Redeemer, and the Holy Ghost my Comforter, out of my heart and given admittance to the enemy. Mother of God, pray for me a sinner now and at the hour of my death --- "Know thou and see that it is an evil and a bitter thing for thee to have left the Lord thy God" (Jer. 2.).
"He that loveth Me not, keepeth not My words." If we love anyone very much, we not only do what he commands, but we watch every sign of his will. If love grows cold, we become less keen to do our Lord's will. If there is no love of our Lord we break rules without difficulty --- we drink iniquity like water. Therefore, our great effort must be to increase in love --- study earnestly and constantly the life of our Lord --- be generous --- from knowledge springs love. Love is the greatest commandment of the Law --- therefore, God requires it, and we can love --- for God never requires impossibilities.
Let each of us remember that --- "The beginning of wisdom is the most true desire of discipline, and the care of discipline is love: and love is the keeping of the laws: and the keeping of the laws is the foundation of incorruption: and incorruption bringeth near to God. Therefore the desire of wisdom bringeth to the everlasting kingdom" (Wisdom).
Love is the best separation for our past want of love. Remember our Lord's word to Magdalen: "Many sins are forgiven thee because thou hast loved much." Ah, Jesus, my Divine Master, shall I not love Thee, and love Thee always and ardently --- and live for Thee only. Help me, dear Lord, to prove my love for Thee. Renew me wholly, I entreat Thee; create a clean heart in me, and renew a right spirit within me. Enliven me with Thy Spirit which will urge me strongly and gently to a more perfect imitation of Thee. Dearest Jesus, may all in me express my love for Thee. O Sacred Heart of Jesus, I believe in Thy love for me. O may my heart be disposed to offer Thee every sacrifice --- "Veni, Domine Jesu." Mother, I have need of thee. Ah, show me Jesus, give me to Jesus.. Virgin Mary, Mother of God, pray to Jesus for me.
"My peace I give you."
See the persons --- listen to the words --- consider the actions. Reflect! Our Blessed Lord is disposing and strengthening the souls of the Apostles more and more; raising them out of despondency, and increasing their faith, hope, and love --- "I am going, but I leave My peace with you, not a false peace, such as the world gives, but true and real peace."
"My peace!" Peace was our Lord's first promise to men on the night of His birth --- peace to men of good will. And now that His last hour is at hand, He repeats His promise: "My peace I give you."
"Not as the world giveth." The peace which the world offers is that false, delusive peace which the Holy Ghost speaks of (Ecclus. 41), that peace which a man has in his possessions, a peace of the most fragile nature and entirely insecure; the moth can consume it, the thief can at any moment steal it. Our Lord gives a peace which the moth cannot spoil, nor the thief steal away from us. Jesus, our Good Master, effects by His grace a thorough and complete cure, and deadens within us all the disturbing passions. The peace which our Lord gives is like a hardy evergreen which stands through all the blasts of winter. St. Paul was sure that neither death nor life, nor things present nor things to come, nor might, nor height, nor depth, could ever take this heavenly peace from him. Even death, which has such irresistible power to strip and. consume, cannot deprive a servant of God of the peace of Christ. The first Martyr's face was bright as an Angel's with joy when they were dragging him to death.
Amid all the troubles that our Lord foretells to His Apostles, He promises them one gift that will enable them to rise above all their difficulties and all their sorrows. He promises to leave with them His peace. What gift in the world is there which is like this? If we are at peace, we can bid defiance to all our foes; if we are not at peace, we might be lords of the universe, yet we should be miserable.
No wonder in Holy Mass we pray --- "Dona nobis pacem" (Give us peace). Then remember the peace our Lord promises is His peace --- "My peace I give unto you." What sort of peace is this? It is the peace He enjoyed all through His life --- the peace of perfect union of His will with the Father's. If we are thus united to God by perfect resignation, we too shall have unutterable and eternal peace.
COLLOQUY. --- Dear Lord, say to my soul, "Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid" --- let these blessed words sink into my soul and bring me courage and strength to conquer myself and be true till death; help me to prove to the world that I do indeed love Thee. Pour forth Thy grace, water my heart with the dew of Heaven; supply fresh waters of devotion, to wash the face of the earth of my heart, and to bring forth good and perfect fruit. Snatch me away, and rescue me from all fleeting consolation of creatures, for no created thing can fully quiet or satisfy my desire. O Sacred Heart of Jesus, I believe in Thy love for me. O Mother, I have need of thee!