Fifth Sunday of Easter
Dayton is caught in the middle of a contentious debate this week. The debate is about the response to the rally that hate group KKK is going to hold on May 25th. While some suggest that the best response is not to respond, others think it should be actively protested, and yet other groups are planning to hold parallel events away from the location of the rally. Immaterial of your favored response, I am left wondering how we find ourselves in this place in the 21stCentury? Within the last few months, Jews in synagogues, Christians in churches, and Muslims in mosques have all been victims of violence and hate. Two thousand years after, “I give you a new commandment: love one another,” how is it that hate continues to take centerstage?
One response we can make to the hate that exists in today’s world is to reflect on God’s word. I want us to notice the number of times the word “new” occurs in today’s reading. Let us begin with John’s vision in the book of Revelation. John saw a vision. He saw a “new heaven” and a “new earth!” He also saw a “new Jerusalem.” The reading ends with the words, “Behold, I will make ALL THINGS new!” In this very short reading, the word “new” occurs four times – a new heaven, a new earth, a new Jerusalem, indeed, all things new! But that is not all. The emphasis on newness continues in the gospel reading. Jesus said to his disciples, “I give you a “new commandment:” love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (Jn 13:34).
Here are my three practical implications:
- Jesus Began Something New. Jesus’ birth, his presence in the world, and the manner in which he related to people was new. His teachings were new. The way in which he taught us to address God and to pray was new. No one had ever called God, “Abba” before. The way he related to human persons was new. The manner in which he welcomed sinners, outcasts, and those on the periphery was new. Being master, he washed his disciples's feet. Being God, he gave up his life for humanity. He forgave the very people that were murdering him. Even a criminal crucified next to him was invited into paradise. Jesus' vision was a new revolution of love. Jesus began something radically new - a revolution of love.
- He Gave a New Commandment. Perhaps it is hard to comprehend the newness of Jesus’ commandment to love, especially because we have heard it over and over again. For us, it is not new. But to the people who first heard “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who persecute you,” Jesus sounded crazy! In the Sermon on the Mount, six times Jesus said to his disciples, “You have heard that it was said of old…” Then he would introduce that which was new, saying, “But I say to you…” People were confounded by his radically new teaching. One day, a lawyer walked up to him, and to test him asked him, “Which commandment is the greatest?” His answer was radically new: Love God and love your neighbor. In this way, Jesus radically revolutionized the entire Mosaic commandment. The commandment that Jesus gave to his disciples was indeed new. “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (Jn 13:34).
- He Formed a New People. In the final analysis, Jesus did not come to merley form a new religion. As today’s second reading describes, Jesus came to bring about a new heaven, a new earth, and a new Jerusalem. Indeed, he came to make all things new. Like everything else, Jesus’s followers must follow the “new commandment. So as hate expresses itself in our times and in our midst, I am suggesting three things we can do.
- The best way to counter hate is to do the opposite. Let us radically love. Love somebody you have a hard time loving. Break the boundaries, break the barriers, be radical in loving. Nothing works better against hate than love. Love like Jesus loved.
- Love somebody of another religion, another culture, another race, another ethnicity, or sexual orientation in a way that you have not done before. Get to know more about them. Shed the prejudice you may have held on to for a long time. Refuse to give into the politics of hate. Reject media that promotes prejudice against any particular faith tradition, religious groups, or nationality.
- Forgive somebody you must. If dislike or hate defines any of your relationship, let the past behind. Built friendship, built bridges, show mercy.
If we practice what Christ teaches us to do, there will be a new heaven, a new earth, and a new Jerusalem. Behold, let us make “all things new.”
Fr. Satish Joseph