The subject of our readings this week is summed up in the following words you heard from the book of Revelation:
He Who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new.”
How is God making everything new? Beginning with Jesus Himself.
At the Last Supper, after Judas had left the room, Jesus, knowing that the sequence of events leading to His crucifixion had just been set in motion, said:
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 manoeuvred into putting Him to death: the pain, the agony, of that 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 His sufferings and glorified God on the Cross, would be raised from the dead and would once more assume His rightful place as Son at the right hand of His Father in glory. For this, His human nature -- abidingly and uniquely His -- would be totally transfigured: having formerly befitted the humble figure of Jesus of Nazareth, it would now become a truly 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 shared with the 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 by the Father in the power of the Spirit, appeared as Risen Lord to the 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 (Genesis 2:7),
so now Jesus, appearing in the midst of His disciples and after having shown them the wounds in His hands and His side, said to them:
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.” (John 20:19-22)
God is making all things new. Jesus, the Risen Lord, shares in this work by breathing His most Holy Spirit on the Apostles, thereby making them a new creation where sin – conquered by the Lord of Life rising from the tomb -- is cast out of them by the cleansing and empowering presence of the 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 return in heavenly glory to usher in, on earth, God's ultimate kingdom, where sin and suffering will be totally obliterated; that beautiful bride is Mother Church in her perfection. She is the beautiful bride preparing herself by gathering together, nourishing and forming, all those called to Jesus by the Father; and she forms them in Jesus by her teaching, her sacraments, her fellowship and, above all, by her gift of the Spirit; and thus God's work of making all things new continues even now, in us and in our world of today. Her sacraments have been instituted by Jesus; her teaching is her remembrance of Jesus and is guaranteed as such by the Spirit; but her life and fellowship depends very much on all of us, her children on earth, walking faithfully and humbly under the guidance and power of the Spirit along the ways of Jesus towards the Father. God the Father began the work by raising the Son of Man from the dead. The Risen Lord, the Son, from His seat at the right hand of His Father in heavenly glory, furthers the development of that new creation by endowing His disciples, His Church, with His Gift of the Holy Spirit; and Mother Church in His Name, has continued that work of Jesus for some 2000 years, as she still does now, in and through us, as we proclaim Jesus by our endeavours to live in all things according to her proclamation of His Good News, and the leading of His Gift, the Holy Spirit.
Jesus willed to help us in this by giving us a new commandment, one that is new not because it is novel, but because it sums up all that He had taught us:
I give you a new commandment: love one another.
Notice just 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 in the world, in the Church, today. Notice that, People of God, it is not just human love – a love which is too often nothing more than emotion, or what is much worse, sentimentality – but Jesus’ love, a divine and saving love, that we are called to show one another; and we can 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 (that glory is the gift of the Holy Spirit). (John 17:6-7, 12, 22)
Notice, dear People of God, there is no mention of emotional affection. Because He was truly and fully human Jesus 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 emotional and most certainly not sentimental: His deepest 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; by freeing His disciples from the power of sin, and endowing them with the gift of the Holy Spirit that they might become their true selves in Jesus, and for God become their Father. That is divine, holy, love; and that is the way we too should try to love one another. Earthly, emotional love can be good, but it is merely human, it is not enough; because we are called to a higher and divine way of living, humanity needs to exercise a saving, salvation, love -- which used to be called charity – and which alone can fit us for the new creation.
Notice, People of God, who it is that loves us in that way best of all: Mother Church. She reveals to us the Father and gives us God's word; she warns us of evil threatening us, though she is so often reviled for doing so; and she alone bestows upon us the gift of God's Holy Spirit. She it is who loves us best, after Jesus, and that is why we call her Mother Church.
And so, loving one another in such a way -- which neither disregards or denies our human love but rather sublimates it -- the work of Jesus is able to continue effective among us, His New Creation, even though He has gone away. He enables us to love in that, His way, through His Eucharistic Presence whereby He continually refreshes us by the constant renewal of His Holy Spirit's presence, promise, and power in our lives:
The Holy City, the new Jerusalem prepares (herself) as a bride, beautifully dressed for her husband.
Such preparation is not always easy; indeed, recognizing, resisting, and driving 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 return of the glorious Son of Man; for, in that heavenly Kingdom, we will shine as the children of the Father, in the Son, by the Spirit, as the prophet Isaiah foretold:
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)