5th Sunday of Easter Year C
Theme of the week: Let us evangelise and make disciples of all nations; and help others experience the love of Christ through our love.
Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He commanded his followers to “make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19). In fulfilment of this command, Paul made three missionary journeys to spread the Good News. Typical of the experience of missionaries, Paul’s journey was not always easy. For example, last week, we heard how Paul and Barnabas were persecuted by fellow believers out of jealousy. The First Reading describes the conclusion of Paul’s first missionary journey, as Paul (accompanied by Barnabas) brought the Good News to pagan communities across modern day Syria, Cyprus and Turkey. One significant event that occurred at this time was the appointment of elders in the local church. Since Paul and Barnabas could not always be at the local church, they appointed representatives to carry on God’s pastoral work in their absence. This was in fact a foreshadow of the Sacrament of the Holy Order, where priests are ordained by the Bishop to carry out pastoral work at local communities.
In the Second Reading, we turn our attention to two teachings of the Church regarding End Time. To help us appreciate these teachings, let us first understand the historic context. From 540BC, the Jews started returning to the Holy Land from their exile to Babylon. Upon returning, they commenced the rebuilding of the Temple and the city. Using the rebuilding of the earthly Jerusalem as a backdrop, Isaiah 65:17-19 prophesises the arrival of a New Jerusalem, where the people of God will live in eternal joy:
“For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice for ever in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,
and its people as a delight.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people;
no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
or the cry of distress.”
Then in Ephesus 5:22-33, Paul uses the earthly marriage between husband and wife to describe the union between Christ and His Church, the people of God, on the last day.
The Second Reading brought to fruition both of these visions. It describes how the old world is replaced by a New Jerusalem (i.e. heaven): “the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them” (verse 3). In the New Jerusalem, there will be no more death, mourning, crying and pain (verse 4). In God’s “making all things new” (verse 5), we recall human being’s state of Original Perfection in the story of creation, before the Fall, when “it was very good” (Gen 1:31). In heaven, we will be restored to our Original Perfection in union with God, as God created us to be. As we approach the end of the Easter season, we will do well to remember this always. For this is the Good News of Easter. Satan is defeated. Alleluia!
In the Gospel, Jesus gave us an important commandment: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (verse 34). Jesus no longer walks on earth, but his work continues through us. We are the sacraments of Christ and it is through us that non-believers come to experience the love of Christ. Following in the examples of Paul and Barnabas in the First Reading, we are asked to evangelise and lead others to the New Jerusalem. We are tasked by Christ to make Him present to others by the show of our love. It is by our love that we set ourselves apart from the secular world: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (verse 35). While it may be difficult to love as unconditionally as Jesus did, we must nevertheless take up this challenge and strive to fulfil it in the best way we can. Let us reflect: in my daily life, how have I live up to Christ’s call? As a Christian, do I bring forth the love of Christ in all my human encounters?
May the Holy Spirit be with us as we strive forth. Amen.