Reflection for the Fifth Sunday of Easter
Rev. Fr. Bonnie Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.
What comes to your mind when you hear the word “new” attached to any subject? I bet that it evokes the feeling of something better and more desirable. No wonder it excels as a bargaining principle in various areas of life, including politics, business, and even relationships
But there is an argument from the vanity thoughts of Solomon that challenges the idea of “new.” He says: “what has been, will be again, what has been done, will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
Solomon was trying to tell us that what we assume to be new is a repackaging of the old thing. So, people are essentially doing the same old thing in different ways. Whatever we see, smell, feel, or hear has been in existence in some ways or we are just getting to know about them.
God’s New Thing
The greater part of the Liturgy of the word for the Fifth Sunday of Easter presents us with the phenomenon of “new.” In the Book of Revelation (Rev. 21:1-5a), the Apostle John tells us about his vision of a new heaven and new earth as the former heaven and earth passed away. Furthermore, the Gospel Reading (John 13:31-33a, 34-35) tells us about a new commandment.
So, what is “new” from God’s perspective since we know that nothing is new under the sun? First, we need to refresh our little scriptural knowledge about God as revealed by God himself.
In the Book of Revelation (1:8), the Lord God himself said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty. We can rephrase this statement to mean that God is all-encompassing.
So, from God’s perspective, the new thing is God’s refreshing presence, while the old thing is the opportunity we missed in utilizing that divine restorative presence while it endured. God’s new thing is God himself refreshed. Lamentations (3:22-23) says: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
His mercies never end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness”.
John’s vision about the passing away of the former heaven and former earth tells us about God’s refreshing and manifest presence among His people. That means God is offering his people another opportunity for redemption.
The essence of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ is that we regain what we lost in Adam. John says, “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.
Love is Always New
In the Gospel Reading today, our Lord Jesus gives the disciples a new commandment: “love one another As I have loved you, so you also should love one another”.
We know about the ten-commandment given at Sinai (Exodus 20:5). So, was Jesus saying that they are old and needless? No! They are very relevant. What the people did not understand was that the commandments are love-based. In this context, Jesus re-introduces the commandments using the explicit base of love.
We can recall that someone once came to Jesus to ask: “which is the greatest commandment in the law?” Our Lord Jesus Christ answered this question using the phenomenon of love, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ [‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:36-40).
From the instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ, we understand that the easiest way to identify with newness is to love. When it is true and real, love is always new because God is love (1 John 1:8), and God is constantly new.
Moving Forward: Love one another
Love is easy to profess but challenging to practice. True love must be action-based, not some theoretical statements. Our Lord Jesus Christ indicated the sacrificial character of love when he said, “there is no greater love than this that a man should give his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Love’s best practice is sacrifice, and it involves giving up that which is of great value to oneself. There are many things we can give up. It could be pride, self-gain, and other self-assertive dispositions. To love one another, we need two things:
- To let go of the things done to you in the past, forgive.
- To give a helping hand or support to others without conditions, charity giving.
When we love one another, we become the human manifestation of God’s life on earth. God wants us to become his vessels here on earth, and one of the most dependable ways of becoming channels of God is to love.