Authentic renewal and the love of God Print
Sunday scripture column

Jem Sullivan

Sunday, May 19

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Acts 14:21-27
Psalm 145:8-13
Rv 21:1-5
Jn 13:31-35

Advertisers often use the slogan "new and improved" to market products and services to customers. From diets and cars to phones, clothes, and vacations, the promise of something new catches our attention and appeals to our inclination to get ahead of others.

Marketing companies target our deep-seated desire to begin anew with the promise of the latest cutting-edge products and technologies. We cannot escape the invitations of our consumerist society.

Even as we purchase and consume "new and improved" products, we know well that the promises of advertisers are passing and transitory. The illusory promise of something new returns with vibrant images and catchy tunes of the next round of commercials.

"Then I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth." This powerful vision, described in the Book of Revelation, describes the passing of the former heaven and the former earth and the inauguration of a new heaven and earth.

This is God's promise that should get our attention in this Easter season. For it is the promise of a new life of grace that is lodged deep in our hearts that only God can fulfill.

John, the author of the Book of Revelation, then writes these stirring words: "The One who sat on the throne said, 'Behold, I make all things new.'"

Only God can make what is truly new. Only the creator of heaven and earth can bring something new into existence. And what God promises to make new is truly beyond our limited human imagination.

But the newness that comes from God is not a philosophical or theological abstraction. It is tangible and as real as our daily existence. God wants to make us new within the ordinary circumstances of our lives.

God's desire to dwell among us is the guarantee that his forgiving love will make all things new.

In today's Gospel, Jesus points to the heart of Christian discipleship: "I give you a new commandment: Love one another." We could say these words of Jesus summarize the entire Gospel.

In Jesus' command, we encounter the most concrete, lasting, and real promise of what is new. Love is the most powerful, creative force. It is stronger than every division and violence that originates in our fallen human condition.

Love is God's response to human ingratitude and sin. Jesus' gift of a new commandment of love makes real the gift of his life, death, and resurrection by which God makes all things new.

As we continue our Easter journeys, may our love of God and love of neighbor bring into all our relationships the newness of God's promise of a new heaven and a new earth.

Jem Sullivan is secretary for Catholic education of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.