Fifth Sunday of Easter
Reading: John 13:31-33a, 34-35
Once again in this Easter season, the Acts of the Apostles supplies the first reading for the Mass. It reports some of the missionary activities of Paul and Barnabas. Although eventually they parted, Paul and Barnabas, Paul’s disciple, together visited several prominent cities in Asia Minor and the Roman Empire of the first century A.D.
While ancient traditions see all the Apostles as missionaries, since most of them went far and wide to proclaim the Gospel, the Acts of the Apostles concentrates on Paul’s missionizing.
The reading is more than a travelogue. It is a lesson about the faith of Paul and Barnabas and about their uncompromising determination to make Jesus known. It also reveals the conditions in which these two great figures in early Christianity lived.
As they spoke to Christians in the cities that they visited, they warned these followers of Christ that hostility and difficulties faced them. Their warnings sprang from their own personal experiences. Paul and Barnabas themselves met opposition and endured difficulties, and it is not surprising that these two great champions of the Gospel faced hardships.
The culture of the Roman Empire was absolutely hostile to the Gospel. The political order and the law were becoming hostile as well.
Nevertheless, Paul and Barnabas were undaunted. They continued to move from city to city, from Christian community to Christian community, to reassure believers in Christ and to promote Gospel values. It was risky, but despite the risks and the rejection they at times faced, their faith inspired them and impelled them.
For the second reading, the Church this weekend offers a passage from the Book of Revelation. This book, the last book of the New Testament, is highly poetic and symbolic. Often, its symbolism is so involved, or so unique to life in the first century, that understanding the book is not easy without reading scholarly commentaries along with the text itself.
For example, in this reading the vision is of heaven, but symbolizing heaven is the holy city of Jerusalem, the ancient geographical center of the Chosen People. Jerusalem, however, is presented as having been transformed and glorified, because within it Jesus was crucified and rose again. The reading is a statement of faith.
St. John’s Gospel is the source of the last reading. This is not a Resurrection narrative, but it is strongly reminiscent of the Resurrection and of the Lord’s death on Calvary because Jesus obliquely refers to the crucifixion.
He also refers to rising from the dead. Eternal life is an option for humans who follow the Lord in obedience to God, in sacrifice and in faith. With Jesus, the faithful will die but also rise to eternal life.
A month ago the Church called us, with joy and confirmed faith, to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus after the terrible event of the crucifixion.
Since then, unrelentingly, the Church has called upon us personally to respond to Jesus, to bond ourselves with the risen Lord Jesus, the Savior.
This weekend’s readings again proclaim the sacrificial death as well as the rising of Jesus from the dead.
It also calls upon us to respond by following the Lord. As the second reading from Revelation states, eternal life with God, in heaven, will be our reward.
While still in this life, we authentically become disciples by loving God, each other and all people as Jesus loved. In this divine love, Jesus died on Calvary as a sacrifice. In God’s plan divine love triumphed when Jesus rose.
We are not alone in our effort to be with God, to love as Jesus loved. The Apostles are with us in their role as successors, because successors to the early bishops such as Barnabas still guide us and strengthen us in the Church.
The best news. Delivered to your inbox.
Subscribe to our mailing list today.