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5th SUNDAY OF EASTER (Cycle C)

Readings:
Acts 14:21-27
Psalms 145:8-13
Revelation 21:1-5
John 13:31-35

All Scripture passages are from the New American Bible unless designated NJB (New Jerusalem Bible), IBHE (Interlinear Bible Hebrew-English), IBGE (Interlinear Bible Greek-English), or LXX (Greek Septuagint Old Testament translation). CCC designates a citation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The word LORD or GOD rendered in all capital letters is, in the Hebrew text, God's Divine Name YHWH (Yahweh).

God's divine plan for mankind is revealed in the two Testaments and that is why we reread and relive the events of salvation history contained in the Old and New Testaments in the Church's Liturgy. The Catechism teaches that the Liturgy reveals the unfolding mystery of God's plan as we read the Old Testament in light of the New and the New Testament in light of the Old (CCC 1094-1095).

The Theme of this Sunday's Readings: The Reward of Persevering in Faith is the Joy of the Heavenly Beatitude
During the fifty days of Easter, the Church's Liturgy invites the faithful to be joyful because our Savior has risen and we are promised, as God's adopted children, that one day we will live with Him forever. In the meantime, it is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God, but we must "persevere in faith" (Acts 14:22) and keep our focus on the prize that awaits us at the end of our faith journey (Heb 12:1-4).

In the First Reading, the Christian community at Antioch, Syria, was commanded by the Holy Spirit to commission Saints Barnabas and Paul to take up a missionary journey to the Gentiles (Acts 11:22-26; 13:1-3). Despite opposition from the Jews that resulted in being stoned and beaten, they established the first Christian communities in Asia Minor.

Psalm Reading invites everyone to praise God whose mighty works make God present to His people. God's works in nature and in the lives of men and women are evidence of His divine kingship, graciously extended to all generations of His covenant people. In the New Covenant, we have a similar relationship with Jesus Christ whose sovereign authority we recognize over our lives. Jesus is the King of Kings whose dominion is an everlasting kingship that extends over the whole earth and over every generation of mankind (Rev 15:3; 17:14; 19:16).

In the Second Reading, St. John has the joyful vision of the new creation of heaven and earth at the end of time as we know it. God was present in the Sanctuary of the old Jerusalem Temple, but in the future there will be a new kind of Divine Presence for all the members of God's holy family. St. John sees the "new Jerusalem" coming down from heaven to be the new Temple for the redeemed of mankind. All that is "new" is initially already present in the lives of New Covenant Christians, but it will not be fully realized until the Second Advent of Christ when the events seen by St. John will take place.

The Gospel Reading takes place on the night of the Last Supper (Jn 13:27-30). In His last discourse, Jesus encourages His disciples about what is coming and speaks to them about His glorification. He also gives them a "new commandment"—they must love each other as He has loved them. It is a love founded in the joy of unlimited giving of self despite personal sacrifices. It is a love rooted in Jesus' self-sacrificial death and resurrection. This unique willingness to submit oneself to the self-sacrificial love of Christ living in His disciples is a characteristic that will distinguish all New Covenant believers. It is Jesus' "new commandment" that defines our relationship to the Most Holy Trinity, He who is the fullness of love.

The First Reading Acts 14:21-27 ~ Paul and Barnabas Persevere in Sharing the Gospel
14:21 After Paul and Barnabas had proclaimed the good news [Gospel] to that city [the city of Derbe] and made a considerable number of disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch. 22 They strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying, "It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God." 23 They appointed elders [presbyters] for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith. 24 Then they traveled through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia. 25 After proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia. 26 From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work they had now accomplished. 27 And when they arrived, they called the church together and reported what God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.

Paul and Barnabas were sent to spread the word of the new order of the New Covenant in Christ and His Gospel of salvation to the Gentiles in the Roman provinces of Asia Minor. After proclaiming the Gospel in Derbe, a city in Lycaonia (a region in southern Asia Minor in the province of Galatia), they returned to the three communities they had previously founded in what is now modern day Turkey. The cities of Lystria, Iconium and Antioch of Pisidia, like Derbe, were in the territory of Lycaonia and under the jurisdiction of the Roman province of Galatia in central Asia Minor (Acts 13:14-14:19). Revisiting the faith communities they had founded earlier, Paul and Barnabas urged the newly baptized Christians "to persevere in faith" and to be prepared to "undergo many hardships" for the sake of Christ's kingdom that is the universal Church.

They also ordained "presbyters" or priests to guide the faith communities (also see 1 Tim 4:14 and Titus 1:5). The anointing of presbyters (priests) and episcopois (bishops) as the successors of the disciples and Apostles will assure the Church's continued growth and dominion over the earth (Phil 1:1). After leaving Antioch of Pisidia, they continued through the territory of Pisidia and reached Pamphylia, a region on the southern coast of Asia Minor between Pisidia, Cilicia and Lycia (modern Turkey). Perga was a chief city in the region. John-Mark left them there and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 15:37-38). With the completion of their first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas returned to the church in Antioch (Syria) to report on the success of their mission. They had "opened the door of faith to the Gentiles" who were no longer children in the family of Adam but now, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in Christian Baptism, were re-born children in the family of God (Jn 3:3, 5; CCC 1265)..

THE FIRST MISSIONARY JOURNEY:
Approximate dates: 45 - 49 AD
Missionaries: Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark
Mission field: Cyprus and Asia Minor (Turkey)
Approximate miles traveled: 1,400 miles
Sent by the church at Antioch, Syria
Mission to Cyprus by way of Seleucia Acts 13:4-12
Antioch in Pisidia Acts 13:13-51
Iconium Acts 14:1-5
Lystra in Lycaonia Acts 14:6-19
Derbe Acts 14:20
Back through Lystra, Iconium and Antioch Pisidia Acts 14:21-26
Return to home church at Antioch, Syria Acts 14:27-28

Responsorial Psalms 145:8-13 ~ God's Mighty Works Make Him Present to His People
The response is: "I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God." Or "Alleluia."
 
8 The LORD [YHWH] is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love. 9 The LORD [YHWY] is good to all, compassionate to every creature.
Response:
10 All your works give you thanks, O LORD [YHWH], and your faithful bless you. 11 Let them speak of the glory of your reign and tell of your great works,
Response:
12 Let them make known to all your power, the glorious splendor of your rule. 13 Your reign is a reign for all ages, you dominion for all generations. The LORD is trustworthy in every word, and faithful in every work.
Response:

This psalm, attributed to King David, is one of the psalms' acrostic poems in which every verse begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Usually the acrostic poems in the psalms do not develop ideas; instead, they usually consist of loosely connected statements.

The psalmist invites everyone to joyfully praise God whose mighty works make God present to His people (verses 8-10). God's works are evidence of His divine kingship, graciously extended to all generations of His covenant people (verses 11-13). God's covenant relationship with Israel began at Mt. Sinai (Ex 19-24) and was expressed in terms of God the Great King and Israel His faithful vassal people (Ps 5:2; 10:16; 24:7-10; etc.). In the New Covenant, we have a similar relationship with Jesus Christ whose sovereign authority we recognize over our lives. Jesus is the King of Kings. His dominion is an everlasting kingship that extends over the whole earth, calling all men and women of every nation and every generation to joyfully acknowledge His sovereignty over their lives (Rev 15:3; 17:14; 19:16).

The Second Reading Revelation 21:1-5 ~ A Vision of the New Creation
21:1 Then, I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, God's dwelling is with the human race. 4 He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away." 5 The one who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new."

The inspired writer of the Book of Revelation identifies himself as "John," and he is identified by the Fathers of the Church as the Apostle John Zebedee. In our passage, St. John witnesses a vision of the creation of a new heaven and a new earth as the old heaven and the earth with its many dangers passes away. That the sea was no more (verse 1) symbolized the passing away of all that is a threat—for the ancients the vast sea represented peril and the fear of the unknown. He consoles those who must face many hardships for the sake of the Church until that time with the promise that God "will wipe every tear from their eyes" and will put an end to death and suffering; recalling the prophecy of the 8th century BC prophet Isaiah (Is 25:8).

He sees "the holy city, a new Jerusalem," coming down from heaven to be the new Temple for the redeemed of mankind. God was present in the Sanctuary of the old Jerusalem Temple, but in the future there will be a new kind of Divine Presence for all the members of God's holy family. The promise of all that is "new" is initially present in the lives of New Covenant Christians, but it will not be fully realized until the Second Advent of Christ when the events described by St. John in the Book of Revelation will take place.

The Gospel Reading John 13:31-35 ~ The Glorification of the Son of Man
13:31 When Judas had left them, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified [has the Son of God been glorified], and God is glorified [has been glorified] in him. 32 If God is glorified [has been glorified] in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and God will glorify him at once. 33 My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. 34 I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. 35 This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." [...] = literal Greek translation, IBGE, vol. IV, page 297).

 

At this point the Last Supper has taken place and the Eucharist has been instituted (see Mt 26:17-30; Mk 14:12-26). St. John assumes his readers are familiar with the other Gospels and he does not repeat what is recorded in them. At the Last Supper, Jesus begins walk to the Cross in presenting Himself—Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity to those assembled in the first sacred meal of the Eucharist. Then He offers His last teaching to His disciples with a proclamation of the glorification of the Son of Man.

In verse 31 Jesus refers to Himself as the "Son of Man;" it is Jesus' favorite title for Himself and refers to the Prophet Daniel's vision of "One like a Son of Man" coming on the clouds of heaven (Dan 7:13). In that vision, the 6th century BC prophet Daniel sees a Divine Messiah who looks like a man ascending in the Glory Cloud (Ex 13:21-22; 40:38) to the Father in Heaven. From God the Almighty, He will receive all power, dominion and kingship in an everlasting rule that will never pass away and His kingship will never come to an end (Dan 7:13-14; also see the prophecy of the everlasting kingdom in Dan 2:44).

St. John gives his account of Jesus' Last Supper Discourse in John 13:31 through 17:26. It is Jesus' last teaching to His disciples, and it is divided into three parts that will reach a climax with Jesus' High Priestly Prayer in chapter 17. Many scholars see this final teaching at the Last Supper as a division between the miracles of Jesus in the "Book of Signs" in the first half of St. John's Gospel and progressing into the theme of "The Book of Glory" in the second half of the Gospel.

Jesus begins His discourse by repeating the theme of the mutual glorification of the Father and the Son in the context of the arrival of His "hour" as He did in John 12:23, 28-29. St. John's interpretation of Jesus' glorification is related to, and cannot be separated from, His suffering and death as foreshadowed in the quotations from Isaiah in John 12:38 and 40, Although he had performed so many signs in their presence they did not believe in him, in order that the word which Isaiah the prophet spoke might be fulfilled: "Lord, who has believed our preaching, to whom has the might of the Lord been revealed?" For this reason they could not believe, because again Isaiah said: "He blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, so that they might not see with their eyes and understand with their heart and be converted, and I would heal them." Isaiah said this because he saw his glory and spoke about him (Jn 12:37-41, quoting Is 53:1 and 6:10; underlining added).

Notice how many times John refers to Christ's glory in John 13:31-32 (literal Greek translation, underlining added): Jesus said, "Now has the Son of God been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and God will glorify him at once. Christ's glory is mentioned five times. In the symbolic significance of numbers in Scripture, five is the number of grace and power.

In the Greek text quoted above, there is a shift in tenses from past tense in verse 31 has been glorified to the future tense in verse 32b, will glorify. This is a repeat of the same theme in John 12:28 when Jesus said I have glorified it and will glorify it again (IBGE, vol. IV, page 297). Why does Jesus use both the past and future tense when speaking of His glorification? Perhaps the past tense refers to the whole of His passion, death, resurrection and ascension that takes place in "the hour" of God's Divine Plan. It is a path He is has already begun to walk in the Upper Room as He held Himself in His own hands in the giving of His Eucharistic Body and Blood. While the future tense in verse 32 refers to the glory that will follow when the Son of God returns to the Father's presence and takes His throne on the right side of the Father to serve as not only as King but as High Priest and unblemished "Lamb Standing" (Arnion Hestekos) of sacrifice in the heavenly Sanctuary (Heb 8:1-3; Rev 5:5-14). It is the repeated theme of glory that gives this second half of John's Gospel the title "The Book of Glory" (Fr. Raymond Brown, The Gospel of John, page 610).

We should also ask what is the link between Jesus title for Himself, "the Son of man," and Christ's "glory"? The answer lies, as mentioned previously, in the vision of the prophet Daniel in Daniel 7:13. When Jesus uses the "Son of man" title, He is not just referring to His humanity but is referring to Daniel's vision of the Divine Son of Man coming in His glory before God the Father in His Ascension to into the heavenly Kingdom. Jesus will also refer to the Prophet Daniel's vision of the Divine Messiah when He is tried by the Sanhedrin (Jewish high court). When the High Priest, Joseph Caiaphas, demands for Jesus to tell them whether or not He is the Messiah, Jesus responds by referring to the passage in Daniel 7:13-14: Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory (Mk 14:62; also see 13:26 and Mt 24:64; Lk 22:69).

In John 13:33 Jesus says: "My children, I will be with you only a little while longer." This verse repeats the theme of Jesus' departure to a place where they cannot immediately follow (also see John 7:33-34 and 8:21-22). The tender address of teknia = literally "little children," occurs eight times in the New Testament and only in the writings of St. John—once in this passage and seven times in the 1st Epistle of St. John (1 Jn 2:1, 12, 28, 3:7, 18; 4:4; 5:21). The affectionate address "little children" is particularly appropriate at the Passover supper. At that gathering, Jesus, as host of the Passover meal, is in the role of the father of an extended family. The disciples are then the children whose function it is to ask the father the questions designed to bring out the historical significance of the sacred meal of the Passover victim on the first night of Unleavened Bread (Ex 13:7).

Then Jesus tells His disciples: 34 I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. 35 This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." This commandment is the heart and soul of Jesus' message and is grounded in the double love-command found in the Torah in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and in Leviticus 19:18. The first part of the love command is also the opening line of what is known as the "Shema;" it is the covenant people's oldest profession of faith and begins: ...you must love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your souls, and with all your strength (Dt 6:5 NJB). The second part of the love command is in Leviticus 19:18, You will not exact vengeance on, or bear any sort of grudge against, the members of your race, but will love your neighbor as yourself.

When Jesus affirmed this formula for double love (see Mt 22:37-40, Mk 12:28-34; Lk 10:25-28), He was affirming what becomes the basis for His "new commandment" in this passage. He was setting forth a teaching that embodies the essential principles of the whole Law of Moses as found in the Ten Commandments: the first three commandments concern our relationship to God, and the remaining seven concern our relationship to each other. But now this "new commandment" to love becomes transformed by Christ in the New Covenant. It is transformed into a love rooted in Jesus' self-sacrificial death and resurrection. It is this unique willingness to submit oneself to the self-sacrificial love of Christ living in His disciples that will distinguish New Covenant believers. It is the love that circumcises hearts—the love to which God promised to those who belong to Him of which circumcised flesh was only a sign of a desired interior condition made possible through the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit: Yahweh your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, so that you will love Yahweh your God with all your heart and soul, and so will live (Dt 30:6 NJB). Jesus' "new commandment" defines our relationship to the Most Holy Trinity, He who is the fullness of love:

Catechism references:
Acts 14:21-27 (CCC556, 2847)
Psalms 145:8-13 (CCC 295, 342)
Revelation 21:1-5 (CCC 117, 677, 756-57, 1043-45, 1186, 2016)
John 13:31-35 (CCC 782, 1823, 1970, 2195, 2822, 2842)

Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2013, revised 2016