On this fifth Sunday of Easter we continue glorifying the Risen Christ. Gradually Christ approaches his Ascension into heaven. Hence, he promised us a place with him in his kingdom if we persevere in our faith and have love for one another.
In today’s first Reading, Paul encourages us to remain faithful in our mission as disciples of Jesus Christ. He reminds us that: “We all have to experience many hardships before we enter the kingdom of God.” In other words, our suffering as Christians is the stepping stone to our victory. If we do not lose our faith during times of persecutions and hardships we shall be victorious. Therefore love for the word and love for one another must sustain us as we march towards the kingdom of God.
Through the vision of John in today’s second Reading, God gives us a glimpse of that kingdom which Paul spoke of in our first Reading. It is a place of renewal where all our lost glory would be restored. The New Jerusalem is the reward of all Christians who bear an authentic witness to the risen Christ. It is the hope of all who endure persecutions for the sake of Christ and his Good News. It is the hope of those who maintain their faith in Christ.
It is a place of comfort and consolation where the Risen Christ: “… Will wipe away all tears from their eyes; there will be no more death, and no more mourning or sadness.” Through this vision, we are once again encouraged and assured that God himself has a place for us in his kingdom. It is his wish that one day we too shall be with him in his eternal kingdom where he promised to make all things new for us. However, before then we must endure the pains of this world.
Today’s Gospel passage gives us the secret of Christian renewal as the faithful practise of Jesus’ new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn 13:35). Jesus has added a new element to the Old Testament command of love by teaching us that the true test of discipleship is to love other people in the same way that he has loved us, with sacrificial, selfless, self-giving, unconditional, agápe love.
Christ gives us a new commandment that will help us to overcome this world and march into the New Jerusalem. Through this, Christ reminds us that the only way we can overcome the tribulations and persecutions of this world is by remaining united in love. In times of trials and persecutions, love is the greatest virtue that sustains every Christian community. The early Christian community understood this very well. They obeyed Christ’s command and were successful in their missions. So their admirers commented thus: “See how they love one another.”
This Gospel Reading reminds us that any Christian community or family which is united in love will never lose its focus or faith in God. This is the love that Paul described in chapter 13 of his first letter to the Corinthian Christian community. This love cares, it does not exploit the other, it endures and forgives, and it empathizes and sympathizes with the other. This love may be blind but it still remains very prudent, sensible, reasonable and godly.
The love that Christ talks about here is an identification mark. He says: “… By this love everyone will know that you are my disciples.” In other words, it is what defines us as true disciples of Christ. This love of Christ encourages us to have a true renewal of Christian life which means a radical change of vision and a reordering of our priorities in life. Such a renewal brings us to embrace new attitudes, new values, and new standards of relating to God, to other people and, indeed, to our whole environment. Only those who love sincerely can enter the New Jerusalem which the Risen Christ promised his people. This love is a mark of the newness of life which Christ brings to all his people this Easter season.
Finally, the Church advises us to love others in our daily lives as Jesus loved us in the ordinary course of our lives. This means that we should love others by allowing ourselves to be moved with pity for them. We love others by responding to their everyday needs. We can show love by materially sharing with those who have less. We love others by comforting and protecting those who have experienced loss. We love others by serving others in every possible way, no matter how small. We love others by forgiving rather than condemning, by challenging rather than condoning. We love others by responding to the call of God in our lives and by walking in the footsteps of Jesus. We love others by making sacrifices for them. This is how the world will know that we are Disciples of Christ!
Fr. Jude CSSp