The subject of our readings this week is summed up in the following words you have just heard from the book of Revelation:
He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new.”
How is God making all things new? Beginning with Jesus Himself.
At the Last Supper -- Judas having left the room -- Jesus, knowing that a sequence of events had just been set in motion that would quickly lead to His crucifixion, said to the Eleven:
Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him.
Jesus understood well enough what would await Him once the Romans were provoked to put Him to death: the pain, the agony, of such an experience would be hard to endure even for the Son of Man. And so He went on:
If God is glorified in him God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately.
That is, the Son of Man, having triumphed over the imminent sufferings of His crucifixion, would be raised from the dead and given once more His rightful place as divine Son at the right hand of His Father in glory; and His human nature -- abidingly and uniquely His -- formerly befitting the humble figure of Jesus of Nazareth, would be transfigured into a glorious Temple for the heavenly Son of God made Man.
God's work of making all things new began in that way with Jesus, the Son of Man and Son of God.
The Son had shared with His Father and the Holy Spirit in the original creation when God made all things in the Son by the Spirit; that is why -- now that all things are being made new -- Jesus, raised in the power of the Spirit, appeared to His Apostles and breathed His Spirit on them, locked -- as they were -- in the Upper Room for fear of the Jews. His breathing upon them was precisely the sign of a new creation being made; for just as God had breathed on the original creation to give it life:
The LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being (Gen 2:7)
so Jesus, appearing in the midst of His disciples and after having shown them the wounds in His hands and His side, said to them (John 20:19-22):
Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you." And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.”
God is making all things new, and Jesus, the Risen Lord, shares in His Father’s work by breathing His Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, thereby making them into the nucleus of a new creation where sin is to be cast out by the cleansing and empowering presence of God's Holy Spirit. A new creation indeed: Mother Church, the work of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
However, that work needs to develop and spread so as to be able to embrace the whole of mankind, because, as we heard in the first reading:
God has (now) opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.
And so, in the book of Revelation we heard the seer declare:
I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
That is how the new creation appeared to the seer in the book of Revelation, like a bride, beautifully dressed, prepared and preparing, for the coming of her husband. The husband for whom the beautiful bride is prepared and preparing is the Son of Man Who will, one day, return in glory to usher in, on earth, God's ultimate Kingdom, where sin and suffering will be totally destroyed, and Mother Church will be:
(presented to Him) in splendour, without spot or wrinkle ... holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:27)
That beautiful bride is now preparing herself by gathering together, nourishing and forming, all those called to Jesus by the Father; and she does this by her teaching, her sacraments, and her communion. Thus God's work of making all things new proceeds even now, in us, among us, and in our world of today, despite personal troubles and public antagonism, secret discrimination, and open persecution. Her sacraments have been instituted by Jesus; her teaching is guaranteed by the Spirit; but her life and fellowship depend also on all of us, her children on earth, faithfully walking in the power of the Spirit along the ways of Jesus towards the Father.
Jesus helps us in this by giving us a new commandment, one that is new not because it is novel, but because it is the summation of all that He had previously taught us:
I give you a new commandment: love one another.
However, notice carefully how we are to love one another if you would learn why we are to love one another:
As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.
Jesus commands us to love one another as He loved us, and He does this in order that His love, His divine love, might be present and supremely active in the world and in His Church, today. It is not just human love – a love which is very often nothing more than transient emotional sentiment – but Jesus’ love, a divinely enduring, selfless, and saving love, that we are called to share with one another; and we are able to learn of that love because Jesus Himself told His Father how He had loved us whilst He was among us when He said:
I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and the glory which You gave Me I have given them (the Gift of the Holy Spirit). (John 17:6-7, 12, 22)
Notice, there is no mention of sentimental affection. Because Jesus was truly and fully human He did, indeed, have such love: for example, He wept at the death of Lazarus, and He wept over the fate of Jerusalem. Nevertheless, the truest love He showed us was not sentimental; His best and truest love was shown by His revealing the Father to us; by giving His Church the words He Himself had received from the Father; and ultimately by keeping His disciples in His Father’s Name and protecting them from the evil one by His own dying for them on the Cross, before rising and endowing them with the gift of the Holy Spirit. That is divine, holy, love; and that, fundamentally, is the way we too should love one another. Earthly, emotional love is good, but it is merely human, it is not good enough; because we are called to a higher and divine way of living humanity needs to share a saving, salvation, love -- which used to be called charity – and which alone befits God’s new creation.
Our democratic politicians – more and more of whom are ardent supporters of earthly love in all its manifestations -- are extending their remit to the whole of life, civic and religious, private and public, in such a way as to take over what used to be recognized as the spiritual realm. They are -- they like to assure us – not intending or endeavouring to do away with religion, just to renew (!!) it and make it rational and acceptable without overtones of sin and responsibility. Politicians legislate for a life they themselves like to lead: a life where their own legislation is the supreme law, indeed the unique law ... where no superior authority is to be taken into account, no other law to be acknowledged or obeyed.
We should, however, be well aware of who best loves us in Jesus’ way: it is Mother Church. Individuals -- apparently members of her flock -- can and always will -- either with mistaken or with wrong intent – abuse, for their own selfish purposes, her work for the coming of God’s Kingdom: that is an ever-present and ever-more-to-be-faced-up-to-and-combatted manifestation of the sin that is in all of us. But Mother Church, by the Spirit of her ever present Lord and Saviour, never does, never will, and never can, fail to reveal the Father and His plan of salvation to us, through her Gospel proclamation of the Faith in the fullness of its truth and integrity. She guides us along the Way of Jesus, and warns us of dissembling evils within and around us that threaten us, though she is often reviled and has to suffer for so doing. Above all, however, she alone bestows upon us the Bread of Life and the Gift of God's most Holy Spirit of peace, hope, and love. She indeed it is who, most truly, loves us best in Jesus; and that is why we call her Mother Church.
Loving one another in such a way -- neither disregarding nor denying our human love, but rather, most beautifully sublimating it -- the work of Jesus is able to continue effective among us, His New Creation, through His enduring Eucharistic Communion with us, whereby He continually bestows upon us the refreshing and renewing presence and power of His most Holy Spirit:
The Holy City, the new Jerusalem prepares (herself) as a bride adorned for her husband.
Such preparation is not always easy, indeed, casting out the devil is very hard work at times: that is why Paul and Barnabas, as we were told in the first reading, went about strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith, with the words:
We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.
While not an easy task, however, it is always a glorious and supremely fulfilling calling to share in this divine work. Let us, therefore, strive hard to walk in the way of Jesus as children of Mother Church and let us look forward with ever more joyful and confident hope for the glory that will be ours when God's Kingdom is finally ushered in at the longed-for return of the Son of Man; for, in that heavenly Kingdom, we will shine as true children of the Father, in the Son, by the Spirit, as foretold by the prophet Isaiah:
You shall be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. (62:3)