Fifth Sunday of Easter
First reading: Acts 14:21-27
Responsorial Psalm: 145:8-13
Second reading: Rv 21:1-5
Gospel: Jn 13:31-35
By Jem Sullivan
“New and improved” is a slogan that advertisers often use to market products and services to customers. From diets and cars to phones, clothes and vacations, the promise of something new catches our attention and appeals to our inclination to get ahead of others.
Advertisers and marketing companies target our deep-seated desire to begin anew with the promise of the latest, cutting-edge products and technologies. We cannot escape the invitations of a consumerist society.
Even as we purchase and consume “new and improved” products we know well that the promises of advertisers are passing and transitory. Today’s newest product quickly becomes yesterday’s obsolete and passing fad. And the illusory promise of something new returns with vibrant images and catchy tunes of the next round of commercials.
“Then I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth.” This powerful vision, described in the Book of Revelation, describes the passing of the former heaven and the former earth and the inauguration of a new heaven and earth.
This is God’s promise that should get our attention in this Easter season. For it is the promise of a new life of grace that is lodged deep in our hearts that only God can fulfill. John, the author of the Book of Revelation, then writes these stirring words: “The One who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.'”
Only God can make what is truly and really new. Only the creator of heaven and earth can bring something new into existence, out of nothing. And what God promises to make new is truly beyond our limited human imagination.
But the newness that comes from God is not a philosophical or theological abstraction. It is tangible and as real as our daily existence. God wants to make us new in the concrete, daily and ordinary circumstances of our lives, with all its joys and challenges.
God’s desire to dwell among us is the guarantee that his forgiving love will make all things new.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus points to the heart of Christian discipleship: “I give you a new commandment: Love one another.” We could say these words of Jesus summarize the entire Gospel.
In Jesus’ command, we encounter the most concrete, lasting and real promise of what is new. Love is the most powerful creative force, stronger than every division and violence that originates in our fallen human condition.
Love is God’s response to human ingratitude and sin. Jesus’ gift of a new commandment of love makes real the gift of his life, death and resurrection, by which God makes all things new.
As we continue our Easter journeys, may our love of God and love of neighbor bring into all our relationships the newness of God’s promise of a new heaven and a new earth. In Easter faith we are strengthened to pray with confidence, “speak to me, Lord.”
How does Jesus’ command of love renew you?
Sullivan is secretary for Catholic education of the Archdiocese of Washington.