Fifth Sunday of Easter

May 15, 2022

In the second reading proclaimed a few minutes ago we heard these words: “I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth… I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God… there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain… The One who sat on the throne said: Behold, I make all things new.”

As we experience daily life in recent months and weeks, these words just don’t ring true for many people. The agonizing war in Ukraine is so full of death and destruction, with no end in sight. The number of U.S. deaths related to Covid-19 just recently surpassed one million.  U.S. deaths from drug overdoses topped 100,000 for the first time in 2021. More than 45,000 Americans died in gun-related incidents last year– half of them suicides! And then you can add to that list all of the personal everyday struggles that each one of us faces at work and at home…

I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth… I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God… there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain… The One who sat on the throne said: Behold, I make all things new.”  I think the people of Ukraine want to see and hear this vision. Families torn apart by drug addiction want to see and hear this vision. Neighborhoods and schools ravaged by gun violence want to see and hear this vision. I want to see and hear that vision… and I suspect you do also.  But the darkness of our circumstances, however, and the intensity of our personal struggles sometimes makes it really difficult to see and hear that “all things are being made new”.

Because so much of the world is less than beautiful—because so many of our cities and towns have their desperate and seamy sides, with their dark corners of despair given over to the evil in human hearts—what good does it do to know that “someday” God has a better world or city prepared for us? We just can’t manage to see it right now, and we can’t quite seem to find the way to live in it… or can we?

In fact, we can… and as Christians, we must. We continue to proclaim John’s vision in the Christian assembly (as we did today) to remind ourselves that what he saw… actually already is. The beautiful city of God has more reality and substance than the not-so-beautiful city of humanity because it exists now and forever. It is the city of God’s will– and nothing has more reality than the will of God. Your will and mine is a passing thing, a mere generational whim. The city without tears, without death and mourning and pain, is God’s will for us since the dawn of creation. It was the original world, after all, before we re-made the world over in our image.

You might ask: how do we get there from here? And the answer is: we don’t have to. The beautiful city comes here, as John tells us. It comes whenever we join our will to the holy will of God. We have the authority to do that, of course. We are made in the image of God, and we share the power of the Creator in the task of shaping our world. It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed at the idea of trying to remake a world gone wrong after too many centuries of sin. But, that’s not the task. The goal of my life is to ally my will to God’s, and the goal of your life is to do the same.

Each of us does this when we obey the new commandment to love one another, as articulated by Jesus in the gospel reading. I claim my citizenship in the beautiful city whenever I enter a situation in love and act from love. And if you do it (point)… and she does it (point)…. and he does (point)… pretty soon we can see that holy city for ourselves… right in our midst.

To live according to the love commandment, naturally, means sacrifice. We have to let God make all things new– starting with ourselves. In the first reading, Paul and Barnabas watched as God opened a new door of faith to people who had been absolutely despised by their community for generations. It’s hard to give up old and venerable prejudices. They seem noble and true, when in reality, they are simply antique.  We might ask ourselves: how is God trying to make things new in this way today?

It is very fitting that today’s gospel reading takes us back to another dark night: the Last Supper table… a betrayal… an impending death. It is the night before the crucifixion of Jesus. He has fed his disciples and he has washed their feet. Judas has stepped out into the night of darkness. Jesus is telling his disciples that he is leaving and that they cannot go with him. Peter and Thomas will ask “Why not?” and “Where are you going?” They, no doubt, feel the structures of their lives crumbling and the ground shaking beneath their feet. Their world is changing.

The disciples will have to learn, see, and trust that even in the midst of terror and tragedy, chaos and pain, death and sorrow… all things are being made new. The crucifix hangs before us today as a reminder that in the midst of pain, death, and sorrow, things were being made new.  We, too, have to learn that God’s “making new” happens during– not apart from– the circumstances of our lives and the world. That was the disciples’ work, and that is our work… and it is not easy work. It is some of the most challenging work we will ever do. Ultimately, it is the work of love.

I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples…” This commandment is the departing instructions of Jesus. It is less something to be accomplished, and more a way of living and being. It will ensure Jesus’ presence among the disciples and continue his work of making all things new. “Love one another.” Think about it: the space that Jesus physically occupied among his disciples is now to be filled with their love for one another.

Love is the commitment, attachment, and loyalty to another that is lived in concrete ways. We do not believe or reason our way into loving one another. We act our way into loving one another. That is what Jesus did: his life, death and resurrection are nothing less than lived love. You and I, his disciples, continue that through our love for one another. 

Although challenging, it is all pretty simple. It is about people, life, and circumstances. It is about seeing (in the words of the second reading) that “God’s dwelling is with the human family.”  It looks like people running towards an accident or explosion to help the injured. It is a bedside vigil when all you can do is hold a hand. It is standing next to another and listening to his or her diagnosis. It is cooking and delivering a meal to one whose appetite has been stolen by sorrow. It is the courage to sit with the pain and loss of another knowing you have no idea what to say or do. It is the giving of one’s money to care for another whom we have never and will never meet. It is donating used computers to assist the education of children in Haiti, as we have done this weekend.

These and a thousand other acts like them are the acts of love that have been done for us and, by God’s grace, we do for another. When I see these things happening, I see “a new Jerusalem”. When I hear stories about these acts of love, I experience “all things being made new.”  John’s vision of a “new heaven and a new earth” is a reality as close as the person next to you and as broad as the stranger on the other side of the world… and it is happening right now, right here, all the time.  The Eucharist we celebrate regularly here invites us over and over again to become part of this mystery of faith.

This Area is Widget-Ready

You can place here any widget you want!

You can also display any layout saved in Divi Library.

Let’s try with contact form: