Bulletin: May 19, 2019
Fifth Sunday of Easter
Although we are five full weeks into the celebration of Easter, today’s readings focus on newness. Our Easter food leftovers may be long gone, but the readings insist on every moment’s freshness in the risen Jesus. The Acts of the Apostles depicts Paul and Barnabas reflecting on all the innovative work that God has done with them. They have traveled hundreds of miles, introducing faith in Jesus Christ to all who listen, even Gentiles. For the dutiful Jewish scholar Paul, preaching to Gentiles is a completely unique development. Jesus calls Paul, and us, not to be afraid of new challenges: as John the Evangelist reports in Revelation, Jesus promises to “make all things new.” In the Gospel reading, Jesus even gives us a new commandment. The Hebrew Scriptures overflow with commandments, but Jesus knows we need one more, perfect mission: “love one another.”
AN OCEAN NAMED RALPH
Human nature confronts newness in a variety of ways. While some bold individuals avoid routine and actively seek out unusual experiences, a great many of us, fearing the unfamiliar, resist change. Jesus knows perfectly our human nature, and understands the common reluctance to mess with routine. Nonetheless he proclaims, “Behold, I make all things new.” During the Last Supper, he even goes so far as to pronounce a new commandment: “love one another.” To the observant Jews who are Jesus’ companions, receiving a new commandment might feel as shocking as hearing about a second moon orbiting the Earth, or a fifth ocean named Ralph.
NOT ONE IOTA
Mysteriously, the revolutionary newness of Jesus flows out of his profound obedience to fixed tradition, to God’s law. In the fifth chapter of Matthew, Jesus promises that he will destroy “not one iota,” not the smallest part of the Hebrew law. Instead, Jesus says, he has come to “fulfill” the law. With his perfect obedience to God’s plan, Jesus fulfills the letter of the law. At the same time, he demonstrates the spirit of the law by freely giving his life for us, out of loving concern for our eternal well-being. As St. Paul tells the Romans, “Love is the fulfillment of the law.” God has given us rules to protect us and help us order our lives properly, but Jesus shows us that love makes the law all but unnecessary. A mother who loves her children has no need to remind herself of the commandment “Thou shall not kill.” Because of her loving instinct to nurture her children, she not only follows the Fifth Commandment, but transcends it, fulfilling it by wanting to go further than it demands. She not only avoids murder, she protects and sustains life. Jesus’ revolution of love challenges us to meet each moment, each person, as a new opportunity to sacrifice ourselves in love, doing more than the law requires.
Today’s Readings: Acts 14:21–27; Ps 145:8–9, 10–11, 12–13; Rev 21:1–5a; Jn 13:31–33a, 34–35