Scriptures scholars claim that this section of John’s gospel is a bringing together of different teachings of Jesus and making them into a part a long teaching conversation Jesus had with the apostles the night before he was to die. This conversation deals with different things: there are prophecies, words of caution about the future, God’s intentions for the future.
The setting for this conversation was what we refer to as the last supper. There is tension in the air. The apostles knew the religious authorities were out to silence Jesus. Too many people were listening to Jesus and not to them. The first thing Jesus tells them is not to let their hearts be troubled, to hang in there to trust in him and trust God. He would be with them to see them through the troubled times of their unknown future.
We all need to hear these words. ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled, trust in God, trust in me.’ There can be times when we face frightening tomorrows; there can be health issues, job security issues, the stability of relationship issues, family issues, issues that leave us at our wits ends as to what to do. When we hear the words of Jesus,’ do not let your hearts be troubled, trust in God and trust in me’ we might be tempted to say, ‘that’s easy for you to say, you were deeply aware of your own close and deep, personal relationship with the Father and this is true but we have to remember that Jesus’ own trusting in God was tested on the cross. Hanging there enduring an agony we can hardly imagine Jesus felt totally abandoned by his Father, crying out, ‘my God, my God why have you abandoned me? Even then he totally surrender himself to his loving Father ‘into your hands I commend my spirit and bowing his head he gave up his spirit.
It is not an easy thing to hand over our lives, our futures to God trusting God to do what is best for us. We want to be in control, we want to set our own course, and we want to be certain of what is ahead for us. We want that ‘old age security’.But we know too that things are not that way. We never know what tomorrow will bring.
This past week Frs. Bernard, Brando. Fatima Lee and myself were at a meeting of our Passionist Community in Hartford Ct. There were at least 80 Passionist priests and brothers there from the US, Canada, Jamaica West Indies and from Haiti. There representative of the Passionist communities in Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Uruguay and about 30 lay women and men who work with us in our different ministries. We have meeting like this every four years to elect our leadership and plan for the future.
If ever anyone ever needed to hear the words of today’s gospel it was us; Do not let your hearts be troubles, trust in God, trust in me.’ We are in trouble. Our last meeting was in 2010. Since then 30 of our men died, most were old but some were very active in ministry and their deaths meant having to cut back on our ministries. We have no young men coming into our community. Worldwide Passionist communities are thriving, especially south of the equator, but in Europe and North America we are in trouble. These past years we’ve had to close a couple of retreat house and leave parishes. Right now we have thriving retreat centres in Hartford, Florida, New York and Pittsburgh but our future is in the hands of God. We are in the process of joining Passionists in different countries in what we call ‘configurations’ so that personnel and resources can be better utilized. As you know Fr. Brando comes to us from the Passionist community in the Philippines.
But in the midst of our meeting in Hartford while facing the reality of our aging members we committed ourselves to looking into the possibilities of four new ventures; a greater involvement of lay women and men in our ministries, a preaching team of priests and lay people reaching out to young adults, establishing the Passionist community in Haiti building on the foundations laid by the work of Fr. Rick Frechette over the past 27 years, looking into the possibility on placing a Passionist community in Manhattan that would be involved in parish work and the TV apostolate
I have to tell you I was proud being a member of this meeting. Not denying our limitations we were willing to realistically look at our future with imagination and creativity. If it is of God, it will prosper.
Individually, as a parish family and as the Passionist family may we all take to heart these encouraging words of Jesus, ‘Do not let your hearts be troubles, trust in me, trust in God.