Once upon a time, a man was reaching the end of his life on earth and he called his numerous children by his bedside and began to tell them many things they needed to know about him and his businesses. He told them about his numerous properties and estates most of which were unknown to them. He mentioned the names of his debtors and how they could recover the debts. He gave them all the details they needed to know and about his secret manager who will give them all they needed to have access to all his assets.
The man’s children were so sad that their father was about to die, but at the same time they were consoled by the numerous good things he was going to leave behind for them. When he concluded, they were about leaving his room when he called them back and from under his bed he brought out a bunch of broom. Handing the broom to each of them, he requested that each break the bunch of broom. It was obviously impossible for any of them to break the bunch of broom. Next, he singled out some brooms and gave each to each of them and asked them to break and it was easy for each of them to break.
After the “ceremony of the broom”, the man asked them what they observed and understood. The eldest spoke up and described to him how impossible it was for them to break the bunch of broom and how easy it was for each of them to break the single brooms. “Good!” The man exclaimed and told them to learn from the broom; and turning around he died.
The words of a dying person is largely taken to be useful and remarkably important. Some people regret not encountering the words of significant people in their lives before they died. Furthermore, having the opportunity to listen to a dying person is often viewed as a rare privilege.
The instructions of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospel today have all the appealing picturesque of a dying person. You can really liken it to that of the man in our opening story and truly they were his words shortly before his arrest, passion and death.
In those heartfelt words, we can discover our Lord’s last wishes for his disciples and for all of us. He spoke about our being obedient to him as a proof of our love for him; “if you love me you will keep my words and my Father will love you!” Here, our Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated that love should be for us an active verb not a redundant noun. This means that love shows itself in our readiness to follow God and His instructions. He went further to open up the discourse on the Holy Spirit which will preoccupy us in the coming weeks.
Among other things, our Lord Jesus Christ told his disciples that they need not be worried or afraid! He said this why assuring them of a peculiar kind of peace which the world cannot give. I wish to single out this instruction for more insightful reflection.
Worry and fear are two disturbing elements that are always contending with our lives at various levels. Our Lord Jesus Christ knew that his arrest, passion and death would plunge his followers into so much worry and fear. It was based on this prescience that he took time to instruct them before it happens and it really did happen. It was on account of worry and fear that they all fled when our Lord was arrested (Mark. 14:50). It was on account of worry and fear that Peter denied his Master three successive times (Mark 14:66-72).
There are many of us who are worried over many things starting from health, family, jobs, relationships and indeed so many things. Worry is the opposite of confidence especially in God. In a similar way, most people are living in fear; fear of self, of others, fear of the environment and even the fear of the unknown. Fear itself is the opposite of faith in God. It is important to note that worry and fear exist where peace cannot be found.
Today in the Gospel Reading today (John 14:23-29), our Lord Jesus Christ told his disciples that he will give them peace. The Jewish rendering of peace is SHALOM. The Hebrew word SHALOM has more in it than the English word peace can actually translate for us. In fact, peace can be said to be an aspect of Shalom. Shalom then has to do with complete well being, wholeness and harmony in one’s entire being; body, soul and spirit; it is simply a state of equanimity(See Isaiah 32:17-18).
Let us pay attention to the distinction our Lord Jesus Christ made in that context. He said: “I will give you peace, not as the world gives”. The peace the world gives is actually not peace understood as SHALOM. For the world, peace is understood as absence of physical wars, while there could be deep and poisonous internal and non physical wars. For the world peace could mean mere outward tolerance while there could be inward lethal intolerance. For the world peace could mean those cosmetic and superficial smiles covering intense meanness in the heart; the reason why the prophet Jeremiah (17:9) recorded that the heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.
The world is generally boiling with worry and fear and there is need for peace (Shalom) to be allowed to reign. This is evident starting from our various families, groups, communities and others. Someone sometime ago asked an open question “Why worry?” Worry does not solve any problem it rather multiplies them. If you can do something about a situation why worry? If you cannot do anything about it why worry. Worry does not empty the problems of tomorrow, it rather saps today of its strength.
Sometimes we are worried about what people say about us without focusing on God’s opinion about us. Dale Carnegie once said that instead of worrying about what people say about us we should spend time accomplishing those things they will eventually come to admire about us. Finally your worry cannot change what people think about but God can make you a better person when you rely on His opinion about you.
Worry is a bug we must offload in our lives. Joyce Meyer said that worry is like a rocking chair that is always moving but it does not take us anywhere. In the Gospel of Matthew (6:25-27) our Lord Jesus Christ said:“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?
The most pertinent reason why we should not worry or be troubled about anything is because God Himself will worry our worries. It could be that most of us are trying to do the work that God has decided to do for us and that is why we are weighed down and dissipated. The word of God said “Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you” (1 Peter 5:7). In another place our Lord Jesus Christ said: “Come to me all you that labour and over burdened and I will give your rest (Matt.11: 28).
Fear is a close bedfellow of worry. Franklin D. Roosevelt once said that the only thing we need to fear is fear itself. We are often afraid of so many things but not God. The fear of God is what we need in our lives and other things will fear us. Often we are afraid of things that will never come to pass in our lives; yes the fear of what bad thing that could happen to us may make the good thing not to happen for us. FEAR is a choice; your choice to: Forget Everything And Run or Face Everything And Rise!
We live in worry and fear simply because we lack peace (shalom).Peace itself is attainable only when love is allowed to take root. It is on account of this that our Lord maintained the theme of love in his final instructions. Without love, peace will be a wishful thinking. For love to reign, God must be given a place because God is love. To love is to let go and to let God. To love is to forgive, to love is to make sacrifices for the sake of others. Without God love is impracticable and unattainable.
Like the dying man in our story who referred his children to a secret manager that will tell them more about his assets and how to get all of them, our Lord Jesus Christ today did the same. In his words, “The Holy Spirit, the advocate (whom I will send) will tell you everything”. Here, we are given a very helpful guide and manager of the Lord’s assets, namely the Holy Spirit, therefore we need not worry or be afraid of anything. Today we are being prepared to look forward to the advocate, the teacher, the guide who will help us to gain successful entrance into the realm of peace (SHALOM).
Paying attention to the challenges of worry and fear in our lives let us conclude with the serenity prayer of Reinhold Niebuhr:
Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference!
Have a wonderful Sunday and a joyous week ahead.