In today’s First Reading recalls the end of Paul’s first missionary voyage. In his lifetime he made three missionary voyages, and just like when he was knocked to the ground and blinded, he had no idea where his missionary voyages would lead him. Today he arrives back in Antioch, the Christian community who had sent him out at the Holy Spirit’s instruction, and he tells them something none of them expected: the Gentiles, the non-Jews, were welcoming the Gospel too. He encourages them to keep the faith, since, as he says “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” Paul is saying that from experience. On the mission he just finished he had almost been stoned in one town, mistaken for the god Zeus in another, and in a third was dragged outside the city, stoned, and left for dead.
In today’s Second Reading John tries to describe what the Kingdom of God will look like one day: the Church, as splendid as a bride on her wedding day, with Christ as her spouse. In every celebration of the Eucharist we try to imitate what the Church will be like to Christ on that day: we wear nice clothes and vestments, we sing beautiful music, we use things of gold and silver and candles and nice things to celebrate Jesus coming down to be with us and come down into our hearts. Some day we will all be united, just like those people listening to St. Paul in Antioch, just as when we gather to celebrate the Eucharist, rejoicing forever with God among us and all the pain and sorrow wiped away.
St. Paul describes the path to Heaven as hardships, but Our Lord in today’s Gospel calls it the moment of his glorification. When John in his gospel talks about glorification, he is referring to Jesus being crucified. So as Judas goes out to betray Our Lord, the Lord says, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.” He knows that the suffering and hardship that he is about to undergo will make what John sees in the Second Reading come true: all of us, united with him in joy. “The One on the throne” in the Second Reading today is Jesus Himself, and he says, “Behold, I make all things new.” Death and sickness and tiredness and effort are a part of life, but Jesus will re-new everything again: not just spruced up, new again. He is always coming into our hearts to renew us with his love, and one day, things will be as if they were brand new, forever, like a flower in the fullness of bloom, but never drying out or wilting.
Let’s love one another as he had loved us, so that in us he can continue to make all things new.
Readings: Acts 14:21–27; Psalm 145:8–13; Revelation 21:1–5a; John 13:31–33a, 34–35.