1st Reading: The Acts of the Apostles 14: 21- 27
Paul and Barnabas are here retracing their steps back to the first community in Antioch. This was brave of them to do. Remember last week, they were persecuted for preaching to the Gentiles. They shook the dust off their feet. Now they are going back. A church is actually formed now. Think of how the news has spread so quickly post-resurrection. What does this mean in your life? Have there been times when you were told to stop doing something but, because of your belief in it, soldiered on and saw it blossom? Think of Milton Hershey, who continually made bad candy and went through all of his money before finally resulting in a product that we all love! Not that he did it alone. Like the disciples, he had a community of people to help him. Who is that kind of support for you?
Notice “what God had done with them” vs. what they did themselves. Everything is because of God. This is what it is to follow the will of God: to have a single purpose. Dag Hammarskjöld, second Secretary-General of the United Nations, said, “I don’t know Who – or what – put the question. I don’t know when it was put. I don’t even remember answering. But at some moment I did answer Yes to Someone – or Something – and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and that, therefore, my life, in self-surrender, had a goal.” How does this speak to you?
2nd Reading: Revelation 21: 1-5
“And the sea was no more” . . . Wm. Barclay, The Revelation of John, Vol. 2: The sea was a place of fear and evil. The end of the sea is the end of a force hostile to God and to humans. (198-199) In this passage we also see that God will make his dwelling-place with humans. The word for dwelling-place is skene, which means literally a tent, but also came to mean a tabernacle. This dwelling place contains the shechinah – the glory of God. It is God’s goodness and love shining forth into our lives. This goodness will wipe away all tears and create life anew – with no death or mourning or wailing or pain (p.202). Has God ever “made all things new” in your life, bringing beginnings out of endings?
Compare this to Isaiah 25: 7 – 8 and Isaiah 43: 18 – 19. This section of Revelation closes with the vision of a new heaven and earth that replaces the old creation, which has finally passed away. The author is not interested in the implications of the image of a new creation which he has taken from Isaiah. The real centerpiece of the new creation is the new Jerusalem. The holy city will be the true dwelling place of God and also of the bride in the final section of the work. The throne voice announces that the promises of divine presence are fulfilled in this city. This city of divine presence and peace forms a striking contrast to the fallen Babylon. In Isaiah, the Lord tells Israel not to remember the old things, since he is doing ‘a new thing”. Revelation proclaims that that promise is finally fulfilled. God is making all things new (Collegeville Bible Commentary, p. 79-80).
The Gospel: John 13: 31-35
This gospel passage comes right after Jesus washes his disciples’ feet and Judas’ leaves to plot his betrayal. Judas thinks that things end in death when, in reality, the death ends in life. Death simultaneously reveals Jesus’ glory and the full measure of his love for us: Jesus is willing to suffer and die not only so that he might live, but so that all of us might share in that same glory and new life (Living Liturgy, p. 124)
From “Working with the Word,” http://liturgy.slu.edu: How is Jesus’ commandment new? Even in the Old Testament the commandment to love was known. First, the standard and model of love is Jesus himself: “As I have loved you . . .” Jesus himself, in his life, service, and self-giving death, models what it means to love one another. Second. This love means service – the washing of feet – the caring for another – and this kind of service-love is evangelization – a way of life that announces to all people that a new way of life characterized by love is possible. All of this passage is also in the context of the Eucharistic Last Supper. Our Eucharistic meal is supposed to be the expression of our love for the God we find in Jesus and each other. That does not mean we always ‘like’ each other and even agree with each other.
In one of Father Bob’s homilies, he said that when he places Jesus in our hand, we are being placed in Jesus’ hand. How does this speak to you in this context?
From Living Liturgy,2004, p. 125, and Celebration, May, 2004: John’s gospel is often divided into two main parts: The Book of Signs and The Book of Glory. This week’s gospel is the beginning of the Book of Glory. It is ironic that here in the midst of betrayal, denial and approaching suffering and death, there is an announcement of Jesus’ glorification. Jesus’ moment of exaltation will be accomplished in being lifted up in shame and pain to death on the cross as well as in his being lifted up to life and glory and union with God forever. On the cross Jesus is the full revelation of God – the distinctive definition of love. It is here that we see, once and for all, the glory and love of God made visible.