5th Sunday of Easter - A New Heaven and A New Earth

The Book of Revelation speaks to those who look to God for a comfort that only God can give. It is a prophetic book urging us to listen carefully to the Word of God and stay faithful to the covenant God has made with us in Christ. Today's passage presents us with a powerful promise of "a new heaven and a new earth," and if there was ever a time for God to "make all things new" now is the moment.

newheavennewearthAmid all of the world’s agonies, especially the ongoing conflict in Ukraine - with the tragic loss of life and displacement of millions of refugees, it might become easy for us to lose hope or ask how long must we wait for it all to be finished? Where is this promised "new heaven and new earth?" How long must we wait for the completion and renewal of all creation to finally happen?

But the real questions need to go much deeper. The present is determined by our vision of the future. This the basic paradox that is at the heart of the Christian Gospel: death leading to life, darkness giving way to light, suffering as the road to glory. Unless and until we accept this fundamental condition, we will never understand the love we are called to share. We will never be fully at peace. We will continue to worry and fret, to question God's will and His love, to resent the predominance of evil and to slip easily into moods of doubt and despair.

Perhaps this gives us a clue as to what Jesus was talking about in his discourse to the disciples. When we examine our own relationship, both with God and with neighbor, we certainly realize how difficult it is for us to imitate the love of Jesus. Our love is imperfect. It can be colored by fear, by some hidden motive, by selfishness. Often, our love is conditional. We only love those whom we like, or those who earn our love by pleasing us. Our love is fragile and sensitive. It withers and dies if we are hurt or misunderstood. Or we simply grow tired of giving.

"Loving one another" is based on the knowledge that, despite the apparent victories of evil in our world, good will overcome this evil in the end and those who have persevered and lived faithful lives will be rewarded. If we take seriously the "new commandment" that Jesus leaves us, we will have to keep examining the quality of our love, to see if it really reflects the kind of unselfish love that He spoke about and lived by. When Jesus says "Love another as I have loved you", it sounds deceptively simple and easy. But when we measure our love of God and neighbor against that "simple" rule, we find that we fall far short of that ideal most at the time.

Yet this is the heart of the Gospel message - the foundation stone of our Christian faith. Love is a gift of God. When we learn to love, we experience God and our love only reflects God when it is not focused on self but on others. Our love is only God-like when it is given unconditionally, without being earned and when it seeks no return.

So, we must continue to confront evil in its many manifestations. And if we cannot "wipe every tear from their eyes," as God promises to do, at least in the meantime, that hope will urge us to wipe the tears from the eyes of others. Only then will the transformation be complete — all things will be made new and we will see a "new heaven and a new earth."