Fifth Sunday of Easter
Sunday, May 15, 2022
Holy Ghost Church – 8:00 Mass
Acts 14:21-27; Psalm 145:8-9, 10-11, 12-13; Revelation 21:1-5a; John 13:31-33a, 34-35
Today I’m going to speak to you about my two most favorite topics: GOD’S LOVE and HEAVEN.
In our gospel, Jesus tells the disciples during the Last Supper that he will be leaving them in a little while. He has some instructions for them (and for us!) in his absence.
These instructions come in the form of a new COMMANDMENT – the commandment to LOVE ONE ANOTHER. Notice that this is not a suggestion, it’s not offered as perhaps being a good idea. This is a COMMANDMENT! Loving one another is an IMPERATIVE, not an option.
This new “law of love” summarizes the Father’s will and it also must guide the Church. This is not a warm and fuzzy, romantic love Jesus is talking about. No, he’s speaking about the kind of love that he will soon enact on the cross. A total self-emptying love that allows God’s will to be accomplished through us because we are living for him and not for ourselves.
Jesus then explains that this radical self-giving love will be the defining characteristic of his disciples. The disciples’ LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER will identify them as belonging to Jesus. Many of you know the song that proclaims this…”They’ll know we are Christians by our Love.”
Why is it so important that we follow this most important commandment to radically love and serve one another? The reason is that this is the KEY TO ENTERING HEAVEN! Remember the two greatest commandments Jesus gives us in each of the other three gospels? To love God with our EVERYTHING and to love our neighbors as ourselves. This is the radical self-giving love Jesus tells us is essential for happiness in this life and salvation in the next .
Now most of us probably don’t think about heaven much on a daily basis. But we should! It’s going to be way beyond our wildest dreams and keeping our eternal home in mind helps us to endure the suffering and difficulties we experience in this life.
Let’s take a quick look at our 2nd reading to get some idea of how amazing heaven is going to be! If the idea of living a life of radical self-giving love seems difficult, well, the payoff is certainly going to be worth the effort! Check this out!
In today’s reading from the Book of Revelation, John is given a vision of a new heaven and a new earth, that will replace the old heaven and earth. And it is a spectacular vision!
John’s vision depicts the fulfillment of the prophecy at the end of the book of Isaiah: “The former things shall not be remembered / nor come to mind. / Instead, shout for joy and be glad forever / in what I am creating”.
All of these incredible events will take place when Christ returns in power and glory. Second Peter tells us at that time “The heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out,” to clear the way for “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”
In today’s reading from the Book of Revelation we learn that the New Jerusalem, the City of God, does not remain in heaven, but comes down out of heaven and must therefore be located on the new earth.
We Catholics are accustomed to speaking of going to heaven, and that is accurate enough until the time of Christ’s return, his so-called second coming. This text indicates that God’s ULTIMATE plan for the human race, which will be fully revealed at the end of time, is not that we go to heaven, but that heaven, the dwelling place of God, comes to a re-created earth.
Revelation tells us less than we would like to know about these new heavens and this new earth, but this hint we are given is tantalizing. When OUR resurrection occurs at the end of time, besides receiving back real but RADICALLY TRANSFORMED bodies, we will live on a TRANSFORMED EARTH.
Now I know some of you are thinking, where the heck does Deacon Scott get these ideas? I’ve never heard this before! Well, other than from today’s second reading, allow me to share what the Catechism has to say about the new heavens and a new earth:
1042 At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness. After the universal judgment, the righteous will reign for ever with Christ, glorified in body and soul. The universe itself will be renewed:
The Church … will receive her perfection only in the glory of heaven, when will come the time of the renewal of all things. At that time, together with the human race, the universe itself, which is so closely related to man and which attains its destiny through him, will be perfectly re-established in Christ.
1043 Sacred Scripture calls this mysterious renewal, which will transform humanity and the world, “new heavens and a new earth.” It will be the definitive realization of God’s plan to bring under a single head “all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth.
1044 In this new universe, the heavenly Jerusalem, God will have his dwelling among men. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.”
1045 Those who are united with Christ will form the community of the redeemed, “the holy city” of God, “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” She will not be wounded any longer by sin, stains, self-love, that destroy or wound the earthly community. The beatific vision, in which God opens himself in an inexhaustible way to the elect, will be the ever-flowing well-spring of happiness, peace, and mutual communion.
Wow! As Christ’s disciples we have this blessed hope of living forever in an eternity where a new heaven makes its home on a new earth, in a new universe! In a universe where St. Thomas Aquinas says we will be able to travel at the speed of thought in our resurrected, glorified bodies!!
Dear friends in Christ, THIS OUR FAITH! THIS IS OUR HOPE! This is why we follow God’s commandments! This is why we must learn to love others as Christ loves us, with this radical self-giving love, EVEN OUR ENEMIES. We must love all humanity, not just the people we like or agree with! This is what Jesus is COMMANDING us to do in today’s gospel. Do you hear him? Are you ready to make the changes you need to make so as to obey this law of love?
How does the song go? They’ll know we are Christians by our _____!
Amen! God bless you.