A NEW COMMANDMENT
(A biblical reflection on THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER [YEAR C] – 15 May 2022)
Gospel Reading: John 13:31-35
First Reading: Acts 14:21-27; Psalms: Psalm 145:8-13; Second Reading: Revelation 21:1-5
The Scripture Text
When he (Judas) had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of man glorified, and in Him God is glorified; if God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:31-35 RSV)
When Judas walked out of the supper, night had fallen. That night marked the end of the day of the historical life of Jesus in the flesh. But it would pass into the morning light of new day in the time of the glorified Lord. The night of transition from one era to the other had now begun. The gathering momentum of the process is suggested in the words “now”, “at once”, “a little while”. The idea of glorification is not easily understood. We may envision it as the shining forth of the divine splendor hidden in His enfleshed life. The wonder is that His rightful glory was so hidden under the clothing of human flesh.
John’s gospel is the story that the Word of God was made flesh and dwelt among us until the time of His return to the Father’s glory. Jesus – the Word of God – gave certain signs, especially seven miracles, which pointed to His unique relationship with the Father.
The first statement about His glory is in the prologue: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” (John 1:14).
Then in a comment on the miracle at the wedding in Cana he wrote: “This, the first of His signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him” (John 2:11). After working seven signs Jesus would reply to Philip’s request to see the Father: “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in Me? ……” (John 14:9-10). While the miracles were signs that indicated His divine glory, its fullness was hidden until after He had shed his coat of flesh in death. And then the divine glory would not be seen physically but only by the eyes of faith. John’s gospel leads up to the conclusion: “… these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31).
The drama of Jesus’ death-glorification began when Judas went out leaving the room. The evangelist – John – anticipates the end of the drama by stating that the glorification had now begun.
Our seasonal remembrance of the drama extends over six weeks until the moment of return to the Father is finally celebrated on the Ascension Day. This extension to forty days expresses the full duration of our Christian pilgrimage. The seed of divine glory has been planted in us at baptism. But the process of growth until full flowering is as long as life itself. Forty days until the Ascension is the fullness of life. Until then we are His “little children”, called to grow in reflecting His glory by imitating His love.
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, You have returned to the Father’s glory. Your divine light, like the sun, is too bright for our eyes to take. But the warmth of Your presence is here for us through the mutual love of Your disciples in the Christian community who follow Your commandment to “love one another just as You have loved us”. Thank You for Your continuing presence, dear Lord Jesus. Amen.
Jakarta, 14 May 2022 [Feast of Saint Matthias, Apostle]
A Christian Pilgrim