24 April 2016: Fifth Sunday of Easter

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
 Acts 14:21-27  Ps 145:8-9, 10-11, 12-13  Rev 21:1-5a  Jn 13:31-33a, 34-35

 

The kingdom: revealing and glorifying God

The Easter season readings ask us, the believing community, to examine the meaning of the resurrection. This week’s readings focus on the kingdom of God inaugurated by Jesus’ resurrection.

The first reading from Acts describes the concluding leg and return trip of Paul and Barnabas. Paul tells new disciples throughout Asia Minor that they will “undergo hardships to enter the kingdom.” Paul speaks from experience–just before today’s passage (Acts 14:19), Jews from Pisidia and Iconium stone Paul and leave him for dead. Back in Syrian Antioch, Paul and Barnabas report to the believing community who sent them that the mission is a success. “What God had done” with Paul and Barnabas, not their own efforts, opened “the door of faith to the gentiles.”

The second reading from the book of Revelation presents a vision of God’s kingdom at the end of history. The great battle between Christ and the satanic beasts (Rev 19:11–22:5) destroys most of the earth and heavens. God creates a new heaven and earth, and a new Jerusalem, in which God is constantly present, living among all humans. This vision offers hope to all who live with death, suffering, and pain in the present. In the new kingdom, God-with-us wipes away our tears. With Jesus’ resurrection, the former fallen world has passed away.

Today’s gospel from John marks the start of Jesus’ testament or farewell discourse, a literary form used throughout the Hebrew scripture (for examples, see Jacob in Gen 49, Moses in Dt 33, and David in 2 Sm 23). Jesus leaves his disciples with two ideas:

  • Glorification of the Father and of Jesus: In Hebrew scripture, God’s glory is a visible manifestation that reveals God’s presence: for example, the fire of the burning bush, the fire and cloud that leads the Hebrews out of Egypt, the smoke and lightening on Mt Sinai, the brilliant light around the Ark of the Covenant, and the light that fills the Jerusalem Temple. When Jesus talks about glorifying the Father, John connects Jesus with the one-coming-down from heaven who reveals the Father. Through his life of obedience and cross, Jesus reveals and glorifies the Father. Through Jesus’ resurrection, God reveals and glorifies Jesus.
  • A new commandment: Although the commandment to love is not new (Lv 19: 18), Jesus adds two requirements. First, the disciples’ love (ἀγαπάω) must be the same radical, self-giving love that Jesus shows for his disciples–by dying and rising for them. Second, the disciples must extend this ἀγαπάω to all other Christian disciples. This love-in-action reveals the disciples as Jesus’ followers, just as Jesus’ love-in-action reveals and glorifies the Father and reveals and glorifies Jesus as God’s son.

Jesus’ resurrection has many meanings and many implications. The Easter season gives us six weeks to reflect on this one cosmos-changing event; the Lectionary’s readings present stories, poems, songs, and visions to help us understand Easter from many viewpoints–lived human experience, mystery, faith, sacraments, theology. God’s kingdom is hard-won. Jesus’ death-and-resurrection brings the kingdom, revealing the glory of the Father and the Son. We reveal the kingdom in our discipleship, loving one another. Does our loving discipleship reveal an end of death, suffering, and pain? Or do we expect others to bring the kingdom?

—Terence Sherlock

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