May 17, 2019

Christ the Cornerstone

Remember the good news that God is with us always

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“Almighty ever-living God, constantly accomplish the Paschal Mystery within us, that those you were pleased to make new in Holy Baptism may, under your protective care, bear much fruit and come to the joys of life eternal” (From the collect for the Fifth Sunday of Easter).

Scripture readings for the Fifth Sunday of Easter remind us that God is always with us, accompanying us (as Pope Francis says), as we make our way to eternal life with our triune God.

The road seems long and difficult at times. In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Paul and Barnabas admonish the disciples, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). Still, they persevered in proclaiming the Good News in cities throughout the region, and they placed all their hope in the fact that the risen Lord walked with them every step of the way.

In the second reading from the Book of Revelation, St. John shares with us his vision of “a new heaven and a new Earth.” “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. 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. The One who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new’ ” (Rev 21:3-5a).

The world as we know it now with all its pain and sorrow is passing away. There will be no more tears, no more suffering or anxiety, no more sin and evil. This is the “new Jerusalem,” the heavenly city that we long for with all our hearts. It is a totally new reality made possible by the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Unlike the old order that has passed away, the new world is characterized by fidelity to the Lord’s commandment: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:34–35). If we love one another, God dwells with us, making us one with him and with each other. And when God dwells with us, there is no more death or mourning, wailing or pain. There is peace and joy beyond measure!

What a magnificent vision! What a positive, hope-filled way to understand our destiny as children of God the Father, as disciples of Jesus and as pilgrims journeying to our heavenly home with the guidance of the Holy Spirit!

The warning given to us by Paul and Barnabas in Acts remains, however. It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships before we can enter our heavenly home.

Fortunately, we are not alone. God dwells with us. He is not dead; he is risen. He is not far away from us; he is close.

And God is not indifferent to our loneliness and pain; he gives all that we need—his grace—in order to love ourselves, love one another and love him. This is the truth that sets us free: God is love and if we live in love, we live in God, full of hope and joy

(cf. 1 Jn 4:16).

No one has promised us that our lives here and now will be easy or free of pain and sorrow. Easter joy doesn’t wipe away all our tears, but it does assure us that sin and death do not have the last word. They have been overcome (once and for all) by our Lord’s triumph on the cross, and we have been assured of a better world to come, a new heaven and a new Earth, which can be ours if only we can accept God’s grace and learn to live in his love.

As we pray in the Collect for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, we have all been made new in the waters of baptism which “accomplish the Paschal Mystery within us,” bringing us Easter joy and leading us to eternal life with God.

This Easter season, let’s rejoice in the grand vision we have been given of the heavenly Jerusalem, but let’s also accept graciously the hardships and disappointments that will inevitably come our way as we journey together in faith, hope and love. The Good News is that God dwells with us; he walks with us and shares with us his boundless love and mercy.

“Behold, I make all things new” (Rev 21:5), says the Lord our God. To which our response should always be, “Amen, Alleluia!” †

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