HOMILY FOR THE 5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER YEAR C
THEME: THE NEW COMMANDMENT
BY: Fr. Jude Chijioke
HOMILY FOR SUNDAY MAY 15 2022
Readings: Acts 14, 21-27; Revelation 21,1-5; John 13.31-33.34-35
“Paul and Barnabas returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch. They strengthened the spirit of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14).
“I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.” (Rev 21).
“My children, I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another” (Jn 13).
Using freely an image of the Apocalypse (1, 16), that of Christ holding seven stars in his right hand, we can symbolically reflect on this Sunday’s readings around a figure of Christ who shows us three stars as a guide in the often-nocturnal journey of our life. The first star is presented to us by the Acts of the Apostles in all its splendor: “to remain steadfast in the faith”, to become like a star that makes its way through dense clouds. In fact, Paul and Barnabas must “strengthen” Christians by reminding them the necessity to go through many tribulations to enter the kingdom of God.” Just as Christ had to walk the dark paths of the passion and cross, so too a disciple must cross the harsh, stony and thorny paths of trial and persecution. When Jesus wanted to make an essential sketch of the portrait of his disciple, he resorted to this innate description: “You are the ones who have persevered with me in my trials; and I prepare a kingdom for you as the Father has prepared it for me.” (Lk 22: 28-29).
We can, then, make the second star appear, that of hope. It shines in the firmament of the heavenly Jerusalem; opened before our eyes from the famous page of the Apocalypse which today constitutes our second liturgical reading. a stupendous reality that starts from the sky, embraces the whole earth as it appeared at the dawn of creation when the primordial sea, symbol of chaos, was conquered.
The focus now rests on a city that, in fading, acquires the features of a happy bride who is moving towards her groom on her bright wedding day. Within this City of Peace there is a supreme presence, it is God himself, the Emmanuel, who is registered in the book of our world to always remain with us, as fellow citizen. From this city the bitter “things from before” are expelled; suffering, death, pain, mourning, lament all gone. A new world and a new history arise. This is the very plan God had at creation. A project of God himself, a project that man with his sin and ego abandoned. A project God re-establishes in Christ.
St. Augustine already warned us. “Let us never tire of waiting for the new Jerusalem of God, let us not tire of offering our hands to build it, working with God, the great and first architect.” The new announcement of hope invites us to consider not in this earth the definitive Jerusalem but the one designed by the love of God, the Jerusalem of the Apocalypse.
And love is the last and brightest star that today’s liturgy of the Word presents to us. It almost constitutes the polar style of the famous discourses of Jesus at the last age annotated by John and taken up today in the Gospel passage. Jesus addresses his disciples tenderly calling them “children” (it is the only time that this appellation is placed on the lips of Jesus) and proposes his “new commandment” to them. It is “new” because it is the fundamental and unique clause of the “new covenant” already announced by Jeremiah (31: 31-34) and now inaugurated by the Passover of Christ. It is a paradoxical love: no longer loving your neighbor as yourself, as the Old Testament had taught (Lv 19: 18) and in the past Jesus himself (Mt 22: 39), but to love “as I have loved you”, with the same totality and infinity of self-giving of Christ, the Son of God.
Love becomes the only card of recognition of belonging to the community of Christ, the most living testimony that we believe in him. It is for this reason, then, that the most beautiful portrait of the Church of all times should be the one drawn by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles: “The multitude of those who had come to the faith had one heart and one soul and no one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but everything was share in common among them.” (4, 32).
Fr. Jude Chijioke