Fifth Sunday of Easter
I began last week asking a rhetorical question about “How was our relationship to Jesus Christ?” Well, that worked so well I want to begin again this week with a rhetorical question. I think it follows up from last week very well. Here is the question, “How well did we love this past week?” John Lennon, as a member of the Beatles wrote, in 1967, “All you need is love?” That is true, but Jesus is going to challenge that a bit by saying, “I give you a new commandment, to love, as I have loved you.”
In our first reading, Paul and Barnabas are returning home from a mission trip, and they say, “Let us report to you all that God has done for us.” Did you notice? It is not what they have done, it is what God has done? They tell the community of believers, “We had to go undergo hardship, but it was always so the community would be built up in love. Paul and Barnabas strength the spirits of the others and encourage them to persevere. Paul and Barnabas loved like God loves and where able to do great things.
In our second reading, John the author of the book of Revelation is describing a vision that he had. The two lines I enjoy the most are, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race” and “Behold, I make all things new.” For many of us, our utopia would be a place deep in the woods were no-one can find us. What this vision is saying is, we are to see the love of God right where we are at, and stay right here and by God’s love working in us. We are to transform the world, because God is making all things new. He is not creating new things. When we love like God great things can happen.
Our Gospel is something amazing, and the Church in her great wisdom has done something remarkable to this story by sandwiching in between two stories. The story begins with “Judas had just left” so it begins with the betrayal of Judas to Jesus. Our story ends with verse 35, but verse 36 and following are about Peter denying Jesus three times. So the top piece is the betrayal, and the bottom piece is the denial, and in the middle, Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment: love one another.” What is “new” about that? What is new ‘is to love, as Christ has loved us.’ Which means to try and find a way to keep loving in the face of betrayal and denial. We can all think of someone who has betrayed us or denied us! But can we stop and think of a person we have betrayed or denied this past week? What else is new, which should help us to love, is the understanding that all love is from God. It begins in God; it is of God, and it ends in God.
In order to love in this “new” way, we need to know the love of the Father that is given to us in this community. We need great prayer and the grace of the sacraments, we need a deep and abiding spiritual life. We cannot do this on our own! The type of love required carries a divine power given to us in this Holy Eucharist. May we live in this new love of God.