FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER (2019)
Acts of the Apostles 14:21-27
John 13:33-35a, 34-35
Whether we are in the Advent season or Ordinary time, Lent or the Easter season, the message is always going to be about love. The history of our world and the history of our Church is a love story, for out of love, that He “sent His Son into the world” to teach us how to love in order that we might find our way back to God.
The readings for this Fifth Sunday of Easter are about love, even though the gospel is alone in mentioning the actual word. In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles it is a profound love for the Lord Jesus, “in whom they had put their faith,” that enables Paul and Barnabas to preach the “good news” throughout the Arabian peninsula, welcoming Gentiles into the Church’s fold. It was surely their personal experience of God’s love that was shared with those to whom they were ministering, and it was precisely that love which caused them to encourage perseverance in spite of the “many hardships” that disciples of Jesus would have to face.
So many of the Psalms sing of God’s love, and our bridge to the reading from Revelation proclaims a loving God, who “is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and rich in kindness. The Lord [God] is good to all and compassionate toward all his works.” Just how compassionate is God? Our second reading from the Book of Revelation gives us a partial answer to that question. Revelation is the final book of the Bible with a reputation of being ponderously impenetrable, yet it beautifully proclaims the overwhelming love of God when it states: “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. God will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away…. Behold, I make all things new.” There could be no more comforting words found at the end of the Bible!
God does, indeed make all things new, and in sending His Son into our world, taking on human flesh, God gave new meaning to “dwelling” with His people, something God had done for centuries on account of the covenants with Noah, Abraham, and Moses. But this dwelling with His people would be different, for it gave God the opportunity to demonstrate what was most important in life and in religion, the power to love. It wasn’t as though love did not exist before Jesus, for even the Book of Leviticus (19:34) told the good Jew “to love the alien as yourself.” Rather, this dwelling with His people would give God the opportunity to model what good loving looks like: “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” To love as God loves is to love in a healing way, a forgiving way, a compassionate way. It is to love without boundaries or preconditions, to love enemies as well as family, to love those who betray you, who deny you, and to love even those who kill you or do you harm. That is the way Jesus loved, and that is the way we are called to love. Let us pledge to love as Jesus loved, that others might recognize us as His disciples because of our “love for one another.”
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