Sunday Readings: Fifth Week (C)

Acts 14, 24-27
Revelations 21,1-5
John 13,31-33,34-35

Jesus came to cast the fire of love on the earth. A few verses earlier in John’s gospel, which we read today, Jesus gives Judas “a morsel” of bread just before the disciple leaves the supper table and goes out into the night. Even as the disciple prepares to betray him Jesus offers him a sign of love. Before that he knelt before Peter and washed the feet of the disciple who would deny him three times. The rest, confused about the betrayal taking place, cannot grasp the love Jesus offers. They’re like children who do not understand. They’re like us. “I give you an new commandment,” Jesus says, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Love is the sign and the key.

The Risen Lord brings new life to all of creation as well as to humanity, according to the Book of Revelations. John sees “a new heaven and a new earth.” Creation is not restored to its original state, but transformed and perfected by God to be a new habitation for humanity. “God will dwell with them and they shall be his people.” A new Jerusalem adorned as a bride will be its city. No evil will be found in this new creation.

Revelations rejects the belief that God sees creation as evil and will destroy it in the future, a belief some Christians today unfortunately hold. In Christ God promises and will bring about a renewal of creation and our task is to work for its renewal. That means we don’t turn away from the world in which we live and simply pursue our own aims. We are called to work in this world for justice and good so that God’s kingdom will come.

In the Acts of the Apostles Paul and Barnabas say to the embattled churches of Lystra, Iconium and Antioch “We must undergo many trials if we are to enter the reign of God.” They install “elders” for the better organization of these churches, but the goal of the churches goes beyond good organization. Their goal is to work for the reign of God as they undergo many trials. Like seed, the church grows in this world, and we hardly recognize its growth.

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