5th Sunday of Easter, May 19, 2019
Read: Acts 14:21-27, Ps 145: 8-13, Rev. 21:1-5a; John 13: 31-33a, 34-35
Let’s look at the Gospel, then the 1st reading from Acts, and finish with Revelations.
First, the setting of this Gospel: we are at the last supper, shortly before Jesus is arrested. Jesus has washed the apostles’ feet, and Jesus has dipped his bread into the dipping oil along with Judas, identifying Judas as the one who will betray him. Then Judas left the room, which is the first sentence of our reading today. What does Jesus say now?
Our Missal offers this translation of the Greek: “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and God will glorify him at once.” Now it would entirely inappropriate to laugh at this, but I feel that little tickle in my toes that makes me want to throw up my hands and say, “WHAT??”
But I know John is working hard to tell us something important. Let’s see if we can’t make some sense of it. First, what does “glorify” mean, Mr. Webster?
Glorify: “to give glory, honor or high praise, or to worship.” If something is glorious, it has great beauty, splendor, is magnificent or wonderful, like a glorious sunset. To have glory is to be highly praiseworthy.
Next, let’s read the translation in the “Living Bible”. It is a less precise translation of the Greek, but very helpful with things like this. Jesus said, “My time has come; the glory of God will soon surround me – and God shall receive great praise because of all that happens to me. And God shall give me his own glory, and this so very soon.”
So we end up with this: Now is the time! God is going to give Jesus praise and honor; God’s own greatness will be wrapped around Jesus like a blanket, because of what Jesus will do on the cross. God will also receive high praise and worship because of what Jesus does. Then Jesus, very shortly, will become highly praiseworthy himself.
John wants us to understand the importance and the consequences of Jesus being willing to be crucified. Jesus is innocent, without sin. We are not so innocent. He is willing to bear our sins on the cross. I don’t necesssarily mean sins like murder and robbery. But the sins of jealousy, of pride, of desiring more power than we can handle, the thoughts and desires that leave black holes in our souls, the more subtle sins of us all. And the consequences are not just that an innocent man “pays back” our sins, but that we are forgiven, and life triumphs over death and light overcomes darkness. The way to eternal life is opened, because we are now made pure again, now able to live in the light of God’s purity.
But there is one last thing Jesus has to say to us: the part we have in this. We are not just bystanders watching a play. No Christian can just be a spectator. He says, “If you want to remain part of me, want to be identified with my glory and praiseworthiness, here is what you have to do: Love one another. Love one another as I have loved you. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” That is not easy; it is difficult, but easier than crucifixion! Jesus was and is here with us to show us how to love. Love will be our badge, our uniform, love will be the sign that all can see and recognize, when we love our neighbors in this special & intense way. Is it true, do we wear our love, so that people know?
Now let’s jump ahead a few years to the travels of Paul and Barnabas. These two men traveled long distances, primarily on foot, and they frequently were in danger, suffered from need and poverty, ridicule, and gave up their lives at home. They proclaimed the good news to city after city, building up churches, training elders and leaders. They strengthened the spirits of those new disciples, urging them to be strong in their faith, preparing people to undergo ridicule, slander and suspicion, and modeling it all.
Finally we hear from St. John in the Book of Revelation. John was captured in a persecution campaign by the Roman Emperor Domitian and sentenced to Patmos, now known as Patino, 55 miles southwest of Ephesus. Patmos was a small, rocky and barren island where many criminals of Rome were sent to serve out their prison terms in harsh conditions. There were mines on the island that the criminals were forced to work in them. John was sent to the island because the early Christians were considered a strange cult group who were viewed as trouble makers within the Empire. John had taught the Good News of Jesus and refused to worship the Roman gods. After John had arrived, he began to have visions, recorded in the Book of Revelation.
John wrote to his followers, “I…share with you in Jesus the persecution (the really bad times) and the kingdom( the really good times) and the patient endurance (it takes to get from one to the other).” John fully understands how really difficult life is. No doubt his visions enabled him to endure the hard conditions, and his writings encouraged other Christians who were being persecuted. He talks of the future, the eternal life, with a new heaven and a new earth, where God’s dwelling is with the human race. God will always be with them as their God, and death, mourning, wailing, and pain will end. And God says, “Behold, I make all things new.”
So we started with an explanation of the importance and consequences of the crucifixion. The end result is to make us able to be God’s people, face to face.
Our task is to embrace that enormous love and live it, to give it to everyone. We are given role models, people like Paul and Barnabas and John to demonstrate in very large ways what they did with that love. And finally we are given a glimpse of what is to come. That provides reassurance that our faith is not in vain, our efforts to love are not worthless. Our face is the face of Christianity to other people, and we must wear our love in a way that people will recognize it and say, “I want what you have!”