FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
All three readings speak about “newness.” The first reading speaks of new converts; the second reading about a new heaven and a new earth; and the Gospel about a new commandment of love.
FIRST READING: Acts 14:21-27
Paul and Barnabas have just concluded their first missionary journey. They are now retracing their steps back home. Along the way, they pay a pastoral visit to churches that they have founded and formed. They encourage the newly formed communities to persevere―even if suffering comes their way, as it most surely will. After all, Christ suffered. Hence, his followers cannot expect to escape the cross. Finally, Paul shares with the communities their evangelization successes, stressing that God is the reason for the success.
SECOND READING: Revelation 21:1-5
John presents us with this final vision―of a new heaven and a new earth―when all the enemies of God will be destroyed. The old order will pass away and the sea (the place of chaos and evil) will be no more. The New Jerusalem is depicted as God’s Bride. God is imaged as one living in the midst of his people―loving them and they loving him. When God brings about a New Heaven and a New Earth, his people will no longer experience trials, times of testing and purification. Instead, they will only experience glory, happiness and peace.
GOSPEL: John 13:31-35
Judas’ departure sets the scene for Jesus’ last discourse and glorification. The die is cast; there is no going back now. Jesus’ hour has come. The events of salvation are about to start. Jesus begins by speaking about his “glorification,” i.e., his passion, death and Resurrection. Jesus says, “The Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him.” The Son of Man is glorified both in his willingness to obey God even unto death and in the fact that God will glorify him by making his sacrifice effective for the salvation of all. By pouring out his life for us, Jesus not only saves us, but also gives us a perfect example of what love is.
Jesus speaks to his disciples about a new commandment―to love one another. What is new about Jesus’ commandment is that it calls his followers to show the same self-sacrificing love that he has shown them. The mark of a true disciple is his willingness to lay down his life for the Gospel. This new commandment of love is at work in the hearts of Paul and Barnabas for their willingness to be persecuted for the sake of the Gospel. It is at work in the heart of the beloved disciple, John, and the community he is writing to in the Book of Revelation. It was at work in the hearts of people down through the ages when they laid down their lives to preach the Gospel in hostile environments and to serve the poor.
In the second reading, John speaks of God who will “wipe away our every tear.” Can you recall a teary time in your life when you experienced God or Jesus to be a consoling and comforting presence?