5th Sunday of Easter – Year C.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“The New Commandment, The New World,
The New Community”.
The theme of this Sunday is about the “New”. The Gospel is telling us about the “New Commandment”.
In the first reading we do not have the term “New”, but we have instead its theme: “New are the Communities” founded by Paul and Barnabus: they are the centres radiating on the world the light of those who really live their “New Commandment”.
The second reading presents the “New World” that will rise at the end of time when God will destroy evil and only the good will remain. But this “New World” begins right now, and is manifested wherever love is being practiced.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation, are from the published works of priests who have, by their Divine inspiration, become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word, we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Allow the Spirit of God to break the chains that keep us from understanding and accepting the word of God.”
In the first reading we meet Paul and Barnabus as they are returning to Antioch from their first missionary journey. There they “related all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles.”
Paul and Barnabus and all of us are ambassadors in carrying out God’s plan, the plan of bringing all humanity and all of creation into full union with God. Their faith, patience, endurance, love, persecution and suffering characterize their first missionary journey. These are similar to the many hardships Christians have to endure before we can enter the Kingdom of God. Thus Paul and Barnabus relived the passion of Jesus who suffered to enter into his glory.
Paul and Barnabus also appointed “elders for them in each church.” There was to be a definite structure in these early Christian communities, and the structure was determined by the apostolic missionaries. The apostles decided who would be in charge, and then entrusted these leaders to the care of the Lord. The elders in the community were the people charged to keep telling the Christian Gospel of truth that hurts/good news, (‘truth’ that hurts, truth that we don’t really want to hear), and they had to get it in the right proportions. It would be dreadful for any community to end up with leaders who only told the ‘truth that hurts’ and unfair to the community who only heard about the good news. The disciples fasted and prayed and chose their leaders under the guidance of the Spirit.
What had happened was something that they probably had not expected. God “opened the door of Faith to the Gentiles.” They had learned in their travels that it was possible for pagans to enter the Kingdom, seemingly in large numbers and not just by way of exception. This had not been an achievement of Barnabus and Paul. It was God who had brought this about.
The teaching we can draw from this reading is very important. We too are tempted to impose our traditions on others, just as the Hebrews tried to do. Whoever announces the Gospel must be very careful to distinguish the content of the message and a way the culture of the audience expresses it. The preaching of God’s Word puts fresh heart into people, gives courage and new meaning to the hardships of life. God’s world is ever new; God’s Word is ever refreshing. The question of balanced leadership is still vital in the Church today. Perhaps we ought to engage in more prayer and fasting for the sake of our leaders.
The Psalm, recited three times daily in Jewish prayer, reflects the importance of thanksgiving and praise in worship. God’s ‘mighty deeds’ for his people now include his achievements in bringing the Gospel to the Gentiles through Paul and Barnabus.
The reading ends with a vision of the heavenly Jerusalem coming to earth. Such hopes expressed confidence that God would not abandon his faithful. God announces a new creation. Traditionally expected at the end of time, this has already happened through the death and Resurrection of Christ. As a second Adam, he has repaired the damage done by the first Adam.
Christ continues to challenge his Church to respond to God’s initiatives by his cry, “Behold I make all things new.” The image means that the ‘people of God’ opens up to the whole world; it embraces and accepts every person, abolishes all barriers and rejects whatever divides or discriminates.
Note also how there is no mention of temples in this ‘heavenly Jerusalem’. In heaven there won’t be a need for any rite, ceremony, or religious practice, one will no longer need any mediator for we will see God face to face. Evil, sorrow and darkness will be banned forever. Are you ready to give up all and live in the ‘New Jerusalem’? We need to lose whatever idols, wealth and attitudes that are preventing us from entry.
The Gospel of today is taken from the final testament of Jesus at the ‘Last Supper’. Judas has just left the group in order to go and betray Jesus.
Two important ideas are stated in these verses. The first is that the forthcoming death of Jesus will be at the same time of his glorification. Far from being a defeat, his death is actually a victory and a glorification. The second idea is that the period after the death of Jesus, the real sign of being disciples of Jesus is the love they will have for each other.
The measure of their love for each other is Jesus’ love for them and that is love without measure. They are to love each other even to the point of giving up their lives for one another. The fraternal love of his disciples is the first witness of the ‘new life’ that Jesus has brought for all. Jesus says it plainly in the ‘Sermon on the Mount,’ “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may become children of your heavenly Father” (Mt. 5:44-45).
To his opponents the death of Jesus is a punishment meted out to an offender of God, but his Resurrection changes the picture completely. By raising Jesus to life God shows us that he approves totally to all that Jesus said, stood for and did. His whole life gave glory to God and now becomes a model of a new way of life for all.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is aware that torture and death are awaiting him too. Yet, he knows that death will not be a defeat for him. In the ironic way of the Kingdom, things are not what they appear to be. Humiliation is about to become ‘majesty’. The ‘King’ will be treated like a criminal, put to death in the manner fit for slaves of the empire. Death will be transcended into ‘Resurrection’.
There is no glory without suffering and life without dying. If we accept such suffering that is borne from love of others, we become like Jesus and will experience also something of the glory of the “Son of Man”. Such pain accepted in love makes us truly images of Jesus who is compassion itself.
The very first time that John uses the word “love” is to announce that it is out of love for the world that God sent his only Son. Now that Jesus is preparing to say good-bye to his disciples, the Gospel writer says that he had loved them till the end. The measure of love, Jesus says, is to love even when there is no reward and no response. This is the gratuitous love we as Christians need to love all others with.
Our everyday life as disciples of Jesus offers us countless chances to show something of the love of Jesus to people. Our temptation is often to be selective in the love we give to others because of some reward or consolation we may get in return. Love of this kind is not really love of the person but rather of self. It is not this kind of love that will push us to be ready to give up our life for the other. Yet this is precisely the love without measure that makes the disciple a true witness of Jesus.
In the face of all that is to come, Jesus issues a new commandment: “Love one another.” Most commands tell us precisely what to do or not to do, “love one another” is not so explicit. It does not establish guidelines or set protocol. It calls us into a ‘relationship’, which makes us ‘responsible for each other’. In this sense, the ‘love command’ calls us into ‘community’. We are commanded to do one thing only, to care for one another as Jesus cares for us.
The command of Jesus is both new and old. It repeats the precept of Leviticus 19:18 to love one’s neighbor as one’s self. What is new is that this love characterizes the new life inaugurated by Jesus and that is proof of one’s love for God (1 John 4:7). This love forsakes violence and is modeled on the self-offering of Jesus on the Cross. It is not simply the love of feeling and passion, but as St Ignatius reminded us, consists in mutual communication between persons and it is manifest in deeds. Dorothy Day states, such love is “a harsh and dreadful thing, [where] our very faith in love has been tried through fire,” and she continues, “We cannot love God unless we love and know each other and be a community.” If we truly love; that one thing only, will be what we must do.
If you’re not up to this, you’re right. All by ourselves, we cannot love this way. But with God’s grace, we can. If it were not so, God never would have asked us. During this Sunday let us ask for that grace. “Our Father, who art in heaven, forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following 5th Sunday of Easter Year C, we reflect on …
Sun. … Let us try hard to never complain when we endure sufferings and hardships, as these are often gifts of God’s grace to strengthen and purify our spirituality so that we may become more able to serve in the Kingdom of God. It is through sufferings and hardships that we attain the humility to appreciate the true meaning of love for one another.
Mon. … Jesus continually challenges us to repentance and to convert the way we live our lives and to give up all that has become a stumbling block that prevents us from following him. This will include precious things and persons that we have made ‘idols’ of in our lives that we have elevated to a status as more important than our love of God. Often we need to make major changes and painful choices in our lives before we can pick up our cross and follow in his ‘Way’.
Tues. … The acceptance of the Gospel as a ‘Way of Life’ puts a fresh heart into people. It gives courage and a new meaning to the difficulties and hardships of life and instils a special trust for the will of God. God’s world is ever new; God’s word is ever refreshing. Trust in God’s word leads us to a ‘new life’ in Christ.
Wed. … In the second reading God announces a ‘new creation’, “A vision of a new heaven and earth”. This is a symbolic description of ‘salvation’. This will be a true paradise: no death, no sorrow. God guarantees the achievement of this new order. Christ as a second Adam has repaired the damage done by the first. The core of Adam’s sin was disobedience to God’s will. Christ challenges us through his Spirit to ‘make all things new’. We cannot be part of this new order if we do not put God’s will as ‘first’ in our lives.
Thur. … Jesus’ death on the Cross is a victory and a glorification. Are we, members of his Church, displaying the real signs of being his true disciples by the love that we have for each other and for all who have lost the ‘Way’?
Frid. … Jesus is aware that death will not be a defeat for him. His humiliation will become majesty. Death will transcend into Resurrection. Jesus teaches us that there can be no glory without suffering and ‘no new’ life without dying. If we too accept such suffering that is borne from the love of others, we will become more like Jesus.
Sat. … Jesus gives us a ‘New Commandment’: “Love one another”. If we follow the one commandment of love we automatically adhere to all of the ‘Ten Commandments’. This single commandment calls us into a relationship, which makes us responsible for each other and calls us into community with our Lord. We are commanded to care for each other just as the ‘Good Shepherd’ cares for us.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, we pray that You grant us the grace to accept the Gospel as a ‘Way of Life’. We pray that we accept the ‘Good News’ as well as the ‘truth’ that hurts, the ‘truth’ that we don’t really want to hear. May it always challenge us and give us courage and a new meaning to the trials, difficulties and sufferings of this earthly life. May Your ‘Word’ lead us to a ‘new life’ in Christ.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group.
Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.