The New Commandment: The Fifth Sunday of Easter

Chapel of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity at Thomas Aquinas College in Ojai, CA
The tabernacles of our Catholic Churches are images of the New Jerusalem. (Chapel of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity at Thomas Aquinas College in Ojai, CA)

Central idea: The New Commandment. Doctrine: Love one another “as I have loved you.” Practical application: The secret to charity.

To view Lectionary 54, click here.

Central idea: The New Commandment

Reading 1 Acts 14:21-27

After Paul and Barnabas had proclaimed the good news to that city
and made a considerable number of disciples,
they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch.
They strengthened the spirits of the disciples
and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying,
“It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships
to enter the kingdom of God.”
They appointed elders for them in each church and,
with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord
in whom they had put their faith.
Then they traveled through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia.
After proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia.
From there they sailed to Antioch,
where they had been commended to the grace of God
for the work they had now accomplished.
And when they arrived, they called the church together
and reported what God had done with them
and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.

  • The apostle Paul and disciple Barnabas had been commended to undertake this missionary journey by “prophets of the Antiochene community, under the inspiration of the holy Spirit” (NABRE note for Acts 13:1-3).
  • Paul and Barnabas are “doing apostolate,” that is, they are proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ by their words, deeds, and very life.
  • In doing apostolate, they experienced many hardships and told those who became new disciples that difficulties would be necessary for them to undergo as well.
    • Some of these hardships would be imposed from outside by dangers in the physical world and the opposition of other men.
    • Others would be voluntarily undertaken, like prayer and fasting for others.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 145:8-9, 10-11, 12-13

R. I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God or Alleluia

The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The LORD is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.

Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might.

Let them make known your might to the children of Adam,
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is a kingdom for all ages,
and your dominion endures through all generations.

  • God reveals himself to us and gives us grace so that, through faith, we can begin eternal life in a veiled way even now. This is why the child of God can say in this life, “I will praise your name forever.”
    • When we praise God we participate in Christ’s supreme glorification of God.
  • The response of God’s faithful ones to God’s goodness is first “thanks” and “blessing”; then “discourse” or a deeper examination and understanding; and finally apostolate – “let them make [the Lord] known . . . to the children of Adam.” This is what Paul and Barnabas did. So can we.

Reading 2 Rev 21:1-5a

Then I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth.
The former heaven and the former earth had passed away,
and the sea was no more.
I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem,
coming down out of heaven from God,
prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“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.”

  • There is the old order and the new order. We know the old order because we live in it. It is God’s glorious creation. But due to sin, it is subject to tears, death, mourning, wailing, and pain. We know the new order because it has already begun in the person of Jesus Christ and all he has revealed.
  • A symbol of the new order is the “new Jerusalem” given to us by God like “a bride adorned for her husband.”
  • The essence of this new order is that we will be given the gift of directly participating in the glorious being of God and in the friendship that exists among the three divine persons in the Blessed Trinity.
  • At the same time, nothing of value from this life will be lost. Both the creation and our own bodies will be made new.
  • God will dwell with us and we with him and one another.

Alleluia Jn 13:34

I give you a new commandment, says the Lord:
love one another as I have loved you.

  • This is Christ’s New Commandment of Love. It perfects the second part of the Great Commandment to love God above all and to love one’s neighbor as oneself.
    • We followers of Christ are no longer just to love others equally to or in the same way that we love ourselves: we are now to love our neighbor as Christ has loved us, to the point of sacrifice. 

Gospel Jn 13:31-33a, 34-35

When Judas had left them, Jesus said,
“Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
If God is glorified in him,
God will also glorify him in himself,
and God will glorify him at once.
My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.
I give you a new 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.”

  • To glorify someone is to see the great good in him, to love him for that, and to make that great good known.
  • God the Father sees the great good in Our Lord, who is God the Son made man. This good is all the more evident in the sacrifice the Son is about to offer.
    • God the Son is in God the Father in the way the known is in the knower and the beloved is in the lover.
  • Because the Son of God is acting out of love for the supreme good of God the Father, God the Father is supremely glorified in the Son.
    • God the Father is in the God the Son in the way that the known is in the knower and the beloved is in the lover.
  • Seen in another way, the Son of Man is glorified by God because he is revealing to the world by his actions the supreme mercy and love of the Blessed Trinity. At the same time, the Son of Man is glorifying God by being the instrument of this mercy and love by means of his humanity.
  • The shift in the Gospel reading from the relationship between God the Father and God the Son to the relationship among the disciples of Christ is not a change of subject. Rather, it is the extension of the relationship among the divine persons to (a) the relationship between Christ and his disciples and (b) the relationship that ought to exist among the disciples themselves. The Son of Man has made the love that exists among the persons of the Blessed Trinity to be the love that now exists between himself and the members of his Church. He invites the members of his Church to make that same love be the rule of law among the members of his Church.
    • We are to see the great good in our fellow disciples of Christ.
      • The good is primarily that they are created in the image of God and saved and sanctified by Christ.
    • And we are to love them for that good in them. This love is to will their good even to the point of sacrifice. To the point of sacrifice is the “as I have loved you part” of how Christ has loved us. 

Doctrine: Love one another “as I have loved you”

  • Christ is “our model of holiness,” whom we should imitate (CCC 459).
  • The one new commandment we are to obey is charity (CCC 1823). Charity is to will the good of the other through one’s actions, even to the point of sacrifice. It is the gift of self to the other.
  • Charity is the essence of every moral law: total love of God, love of neighbor as oneself, the Ten Commandments, the laws of the Church. It is even what is at the basis of every just civil law (CCC 2196 & 2822).

Practical application: The secret to charity

  • How do we live charity? How do we make a sincere gift of self to those around us?
  • The answer is imitation of Christ, properly understood.
    • We learn many things by direct imitation, that is, by observing another and doing the same.
    • Sometimes the one we imitate helps us by showing us and explaining things.
    • We have all this when it comes to imitating Christ. We can read his life in the Sacred Scriptures.
  • However, the Catechism tells us “It is impossible to keep the Lord’s commandment by imitating the divine model from outside” (CCC 2842). So, strict human imitation will not suffice for learning charity. In other words, we cannot do this on our own.
  • Instead, “there has to be a vital participation, coming from the depths of the heart, in the holiness and the mercy and the love of our God” (CCC 2842). I think this means we have to have the teacher and model inside us.
    • Holiness and mercy and love are dimensions of God’s very being. Our soul has to be getting charity from God’s soul.
  • So how can we have this interior participation? The answer given is, “Only the Spirit by whom we live can make ‘ours’ the same mind that was in Christ Jesus” (CCC 2842).
  • The Sacraments are key here. Beginning with Baptism, the sacraments give us, or increase in us, or restore to us sanctifying grace. Sanctifying grace is “The supernatural state of being infused by God” which “makes holy those who possess the gift by giving them a participation in the divine life.” Sanctifying grace or God’s very life in us makes this interior participation possible because with it we have the mind of Christ. So, with sanctifying grace, the Holy Spirit can move us to act in accord with the mind of Christ with the holiness, mercy and love of God.
  • But we have to actualize the sanctifying grace we are given by conversion to Christ and total adherence to him (Catechesi Tradendae 20).
    • “Changed by the working of grace into a new creature, the Christian thus sets himself to follow Christ and learns more and more within the Church to think like Him, to judge like Him, to act in conformity with His commandments, and to hope as He invites us to” (CT 20).

Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)

This outline is written to be in accord with the Homiletic Directory issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (2014). (To read an excellent summary of the Homiletic Directory, click here.)

The Homiletic Directory offers the following Catechism points and themes for the Fifth Sunday of Easter:

  • CCC 2746-2751: Christ’s prayer at the Last Supper
  • CCC 459, 1823, 2074, 2196, 2822, 2842: “as I have loved you”
  • CCC 756, 865, 1042-1050, 2016, 2817: a new heavens and a new earth






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