With the Ascension and Pentecost round the corner, the role of the Holy Spirit has come into sharp focus. Today’s Gospel (Jn 14; 23-29) reminds us that Jesus at the Last Supper had assured His disciples that they would not be orphaned; He would remain for ever in their midst through the Holy Spirit: ‘The Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.’

It is reassuring to have such a Paraclete – Advocate, Helper, Comforter, Intercessor; it is equally heartening that Jesus promises a close relationship with whoever loves Him and keeps His Word. But what does it mean to love Jesus? It means doing the will of His Father. And what is His Father’s will? It comprises all that He has decreed in love and is now found in Church teaching and sacred Tradition.

Amor vincit omnia: love conquers everything. Love is indeed a harbinger of peace – which is priceless when it comes from Jesus! It is a peace ‘not as the world gives’, and so, irreplaceable. The Lord’s peace is not an insurance policy that promises ‘peace of mind’; it is rather a state of being that comes about from knowing who we are, why we are here and what is our final destination. It is a peace that comes from having the right priorities: putting God above all people and all things. It is a peace that comes from making God the centre of our lives. One of my favourite hymns says it all: ‘No one can give to me that peace which my Risen Lord, my Risen King, can give.’

It is clear from the First Reading (Acts 15: 1-2, 22-29) that the first Christians depended on the Holy Spirit for guidance, and they practised love and peace. Of course, it was never a smooth ride: despite the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the community witnessed infighting. But what is marvellous is that they resolved their conflicts in love and peace; through consultation, dialogue, consensus.

Consider that thorny issue of whether or not pagans had to go through the rituals of Judaism (e.g. circumcision for male converts) before they embraced Christianity. Paul and Barnabas consulted the Apostles and elders back in Jerusalem. After they had found a feasible solution, at what came to be called the first council of Jerusalem, they were quick to reach out to their brethren in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: they did not impose circumcision upon the catechumens of both Jewish and pagan origin, but they encouraged them, with due reason, to abstain from what was sacrificed to idols; from blood and what was strangled; and from unchastity.

It is obvious that the Apostles and the elders exercised great pastoral care. Later, this model of social, emotional and spiritual support became integral to evangelisation of prospective converts and neo-converts the world over (including Goa, way back in the sixteenth century). The Holy Spirit became an instrument of the Lord’s peace: where there was hatred, he sowed love; where there was injury, pardon; where there was doubt, faith; where there was despair, hope; where there was darkness, light; where there was sadness, joy. After all, peace, love and joy are among the many fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Finally, from the Second Reading (Rev 21: 10-14, 22-23) we understand that with Emmanuel (God with us) and the fruits of the Holy Spirit we come close to Heaven, which is the new and eternal Jerusalem. The angel showed St John a holy city perched on a high mountain. There was no temple in the city: ‘its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb’. There was no more sun and moon: the glory of God was its light, the Lamb its lamp. This is where we all belong; our citizenship lies in Heaven. What a privilege!

Who can deny that our Christian identity is a privilege? But, at the same time, privilege entails responsibility – noblesse oblige! Thus, we are called to be temples of the Holy Spirit, the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We are called to pray for peace in our personal lives and in the world. As a spiritual exercise, it would also be a good idea to identify places that are in need of liberation from the scourge of sin and evil; and when we exchange a sign of peace at Mass, dearly wish that the peace of Jesus be always present in our hearts and minds. To crown it all, let us make the eternal city the goal of our earthly pilgrimage, with the Holy Spirit as our Guide.