This week is the fifth Sunday of Easter. The readings today describe the concept of renewal, of our commitment to God and to one another. Common phrases that we will see throughout the readings are: “The New Jerusalem,” “a new Heaven and a new Earth,” and “a new Commandment.”
Today’s first reading is from the Acts of the Apostles. It beautifully describes the missionary works of Paul and his companion Barnabas, and explains how the small Christian communities assisted in the renewal of their members by their selfless love. Paul and Barnabas knew that evangelization and Baptism were only the first steps in a lifelong process of turning to, and being transformed by Christ. Here, we witness the presence of strong Christian communities who not only grew in their own faith, but also shared their faith with one another. They opened the door of their faith to the Gentiles. The early Christian communities remind us of the modern Christian communities or Basic Christian Communities (BCCs), inviting them to return to their first-century roots by establishing congregations that were a network of individual Christians, bound together in prayer, faith, mutual support, service, missionary outreach and accountability. In modern times, we may not be called to the same kind of missionary activities as Paul and Barnabas were, but we must be as unselfish in our service to others and be likewise committed to sharing our faith as they were.
The second reading from the Book of Revelation was written to strengthen the faith of the persecuted early Christians. Today’s passage recounts one of St. John’s visions of the new age of eschatological fulfillment inaugurated by the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. The ancient city of Jerusalem had long been a token of God’s presence for the Jews. The Jerusalem Temple was a reminder of God’s continuous and ongoing Presence in and among them in a particular way. The image such as the “New Jerusalem” described renewal and change that God would bring about among His people. The image was also a metaphor for the Church, which is always called to reveal God’s Presence among us.
The reading from John’s Gospel is known as “The Last Discourse or the Farewell Discourse,” which took place at the Last Supper. This Farewell Discourse is a powerful and intimate part of Jesus’ teaching on the Christian concepts of glory and love. The glorification mentioned in the reading refers, above all, to the glory which Christ will receive once He is raised up on the cross. John stresses that Christ’s death is the beginning of His victory: His very crucifixion can be considered the first step in His ascension to his Father. At the same time, it
is glorification of the Father, because Christ, by voluntarily accepting death out of love, as a supreme act of obedience to the Will of God, performs the greatest sacrifice man can offer for the glorification of God. The Father will respond to this glorification which Christ offers Him by glorifying Christ as the Son of Man, that is, in His holy human nature, through His resurrection and ascension to God’s right hand. As Christ’s disciples, we also will find our highest motivation and glory by identifying ourselves with Christ’s obedience in our daily lives, especially by keeping His new commandment of love.
In the second part of the Gospel reading Jesus gives us a new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Jesus’ commandment calls for love without limits, conditions, or prerequisites. We are asked to love as Jesus loved, in the ordinary course of our lives. We love others by responding to their everyday needs with love and compassion. We love others by comforting and protecting those who have experienced loss and pain. We love others by serving them in every possible way no matter how small the task may seem, while at the same time seeing the face of Jesus in those we help. We love others by forgiving, rather than condemning, by challenging, rather than condoning. Finally, we love others by sacrificially sharing our time, talents and blessings with others. In this way we make the love of God concrete and visible, allowing us to renew our own lives as well as renewing our relationships with God.
As you might know we have had two sessions of Alpha. I was so happy to see so many of you, especially many new faces. As I mentioned a few weeks ago in my bulletin article, Alpha is a great program and an opportunity to understand and grow in faith. I hope you will take advantage of this program. It is also an opportunity to share a meal together with our faith community, grow in fellowship and encounter the presence of the Risen Lord. The uniqueness of the program is to invite others, like Andrew inviting his brother Peter, “Come and see.” Do not feel shy about inviting others to attend; with your invitation you might bring someone closer to Jesus, and to the Faith.