•Acts 14:21-27 • Revelation 21:1-5a • John 13: 31-35•
Weekly Scripture Readings: Fifth Sunday of Easter
To print a PDF of the homily click HERE.
Christ is risen! Truly he is risen!! Again this week I begin with a word of caution. Although we continue celebrating the Easter feast, — resurrection, the text from John’s gospel is out of sync. The Lectionary turns our attention back to the last meal Jesus shared with his close companions on the night before he was executed. It does so inviting us into the Christ Mystery.
During that final meal Jesus hands a piece of bread to Judas. He then said to Judas, “what you are going to do, do quickly.” “No one at the table knew why Jesus said this to him.”
After Jesus sent Judas off and shared food with the others, he speaks about “being glorified.” This somewhat ambiguous language is John’s phrase used to explain to his community the events that had transpired in Jerusalem nearly seven decades earlier.
The tradition received by his community said that Jesus gave himself freely into the hands of those who executed him. In doing so he was totally and freely in sync with the will and purpose of that Gracious Mystery we name God. He tells his companions, “where I am going, you cannot come.” He said this in anticipation of and to prepare his companions for what was to follow. He wants his community to understand that “if you don’t accept what happened to Jesus, you cannot understand him at all! As you come to understand, you will become like him!!”
John had a reason for situating this language about being “glorified” within the context of that pre-crucifixion / pre-resurrection meal Jesus shared with his friends. In that setting John is telling us the Gracious Mystery we name God is not external to us.
The human and the divine are not two separate realms. God does not have to enter the world from some other realm. The Gracious Mystery we name God permeates and sustains all that is.
When a human life is open to all that humanity can be, humanity and divinity flow together as one. This is the Christ Mystery. John is inviting his community into the Christ Mystery.
He tells us that before concluding that meal, Jesus added words that summarize his entire life. He says, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
God is love, a penetrating presence deep within and among us. Love is the power that binds us to one another. Love – his ability to freely give his life, is the meaning of the Risen Christ. He calls it a command. It is in fact an existential demand.
Ponder this text mindful that we live in a culture of death. If you do not know what I mean by that, listen to some of the politicians seeking their party’s nomination. Some, even while claiming to be “Christian,” then promise to destroy ISIS and “make the deserts glow!” Their passionate words sound like veiled threats of nuclear bombs — the great symbols of a culture of death.
Listen carefully to the current political debates. Until now we have never heard a single comment or even a hint that any of these politicians see our possession of nuclear weapons as an absolute contradiction of the Risen Christ. I wonder if any of them ever heard of or really believe what Jesus tells us in this text. “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
I / we believe Christ is risen! (Truly he is risen!!), and the Risen One is present in us and with us. The challenge for all of us is to “put on the mind of Christ.” That means aligning my mind, heart and soul with the mind, heart and soul of the Risen one. It means loving as he loves. The bottom line is this. If I believe that Christ is risen! (Truly he is risen!!), there is no reasonable way I can ignore the “new commandment,” the ethical demand the Risen One sets before us, and still claim to be a “Christian.” “Love one another.” In doing so we are living resurrection life!