In the Acts of the Apostles we hear of the travels of Paul and Barnabas. These two men were not part of the original twelve Apostles, but the experience the Apostles had with Jesus was not limited to the chosen twelve, and was passed on to those who followed them. We are told that Paul and Barnabas had finished ministry in Lystra where Paul was stoned, thought to be dead and dragged out of the city. After this they returned to Antioch where they, “reported what God had done with them.” They did not focus on the rejection and persecution, but rather on the good fruit that came from their faithfulness to the Lord.
The Book of Revelation, also known as the Apocalypse of John, comes from a time of persecution and suffering in the early Church. God’s word to the Church at that time, as well as to us, is to continue to walk in faith and to trust in the presence of the Lord. The passage we hear this weekend comes from the next to last chapter and reminds us that despite the trials and suffering those who remain faithful will share in the Victory of Jesus. It is the victory of seeing a “new heaven and a new earth;” the victory of seeing the “new Jerusalem,” where God dwells. It is the victory that results in the end of suffering and death, for in Christ, all things are made new.
In the Gospel Jesus looks at the impending betrayal by Judas as preparation for his glorification that will come with the Cross and Resurrection. Without the resurrection we can look at the imperfections of life with its trials and tribulations as a hopeless path that ends with our deaths. With Christ’s resurrection this is turned around and all of our imperfections and sufferings are seen as part of the path to everlasting life. Jesus changes our identity to that of love and tells us, “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Our identity comes from who we are in relationship to Christ. His new commandment is; “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.”
In all of this we are called not to focus on our sufferings and little persecutions, but rather on being faithful to the Lord and rejoicing in the fruit that comes from this faithfulness. We are called to look at life through the eyes of the resurrection in which everything is changed, and to allow the joy of the resurrection to be the source of our deep rooted and overflowing joy. We are called to accept the love the Lord gives to us, and to love one another with that same love. These three things are not always easy, but neither was the path of the cross to the resurrection, but if we walk the path with faithfulness, joy and love we will experience the glory of the resurrection more and more in our lives.
In the Church we celebrate the Easter Season for fifty days, in our lives let us work at celebrating Easter every day of the year. For the Risen Lord is with us always, and his love never ceases and his glory never diminishes. The Easter Season is a time for us to be renewed and restored in experiencing the greatness of God’s love for us. May the remainder of the Easter Season be a time of our renewal and prepare us to joyfully celebrate the presence of the Risen Lord throughout the rest of the year.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.