Readings: Acts 14:21-17; Revelation 21:1-5; John 13:31-35
Sometimes you get lucky. Maybe it’s bingo and all the numbers called fall right onto your card. Or a truck pulls out of the very parking spot you wanted and you slide right in. Or the flashing lights on the state trooper’s car behind you on the highway are going after the guy passing you. Sometimes you just get lucky.
That’s the way I feel this morning; these Scripture readings we have for today’s mass are like that for me. I’ve gotten lucky. We could have expected. like last year, the Gospel for the Fifth Sunday of Easter to be the image of the grape vine which gives its life to all the branches. That would certainly be okay. But not as good as the Gospel we’ve got today. The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles and the second reading from the Book of Revelation tie together with today’s Gospel in a wonderful way. We’re really lucky today.
What is so special about these three passages of the Bible? They all fit together. The reading from the Acts of the Apostles tells us of the first journey Saint Paul took from Antioch, to proclaim the Good News of Christ’s Resurrection and of God’s salvation for the gentiles. His preaching is embraced by so many pagans and they become devout Christians; the Church is spreading in the power of the Holy Spirit. The second reading we hear is from the Book of Revelation and it describes succinctly what the future will be for Christians who are faithful to God’s message of salvation: God’s dwelling is with the human race.
We can’t possibly imagine what our life will be like with God. The Scriptures themselves tell us we can’t. But the author of the Book of Revelation gives us some pretty powerful images that capture for us what God is offering us. A new heaven and a new earth; we are–everyone of us–made totally new. And our newness won’t be because of some new diet we are struggling to keep or exercising to the point of exhaustion or having surgical repair work. Our newness will be a total transformation into what God intends us to be forever after. And God himself will be at the very heart of his gift, abiding with us and filling us with his own life. We can’t even imagine it. But we will have it. Eye has not seen nor ear heard nor has it entered into the heart of anyone what God has prepared for those who love him.
And the Gospel we have for today is certainly short and to the point. No one could misunderstand it’s meaning. Who could not understand what Jesus says, what he wants of me, what we need to do? It’s that clear–we have a new commandment, just one: to love other people. As I have loved you, so you should love one another. This is not a wish or a fond hope; Jesus says it’s his command for us. It’s what we must do, only that. But exactly that!
I must leave it to each one’s conscience–because we all have our conscience, that’s what makes us human–to figure out for himself or herself what that means. It’s not hard to understand; but we have such devious minds full of selfish interest. We try to fool ourselves.
But God is patient with us–that’s what being God is all about! And that’s exactly one of the ways we can love each other, by patience. There are other ways as well. The First Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians, in Chapter Thirteen, gives us a list of ways we can love each other. It’s a famous passage. Love is patient, love is kind, love is never jealous. Love is never boastful or conceited. It is never rude or selfish. It does not take offense and it is not resentful. Love is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes.
We should all learn that by heart. But just memorizing it isn’t the point. We should practice it with one another. Everybody wants love. What I mean is that we want someone to love us and care for us. But is that what Jesus says? Just as I have loved you, he says. What Jesus actually commands me to do is to try to give love, not to try to get love. It’s a big distinction. Think about it. Do I get or do I give? And then, examine your conscience. It’s what Jesus commands us. It’s really the only thing that Jesus does command. What will I do?