May 15, 2022
“Then I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth…
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 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.’”
‘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.’”
I appreciate the contrast between the second reading and the Gospel reading today. John, in the second reading, has a grand vision of a new heaven and a new earth, of God dwelling with his people, of the old order passing away, and of all things made new. It is transcendent and soaring in its scope and magnitude. In contrast, after Judas leaves the last supper to betray Jesus, Jesus speaks of being glorified by the coming of his crucifixion. Then he gives a new commandment: love one another. The scene is so much more intimate and small. The commandment so earthy, lived out in practical ways each day. The few of you, gathered in this room, love one another. This contrast is necessary and the tension between the vision and the commandment is creative. It is a tension we all feel in any meaningful endeavor or significant goal.
Take the athlete who desires to win a Super Bowl. The vision is necessary, but so are the countless hours of practicing one skill, honing it, creating muscle memory, and executing it (along with many others in parallel) effectively at the moment necessary. The many small mundane tasks, seemingly unimportant, create the potential when opportunity presents itself for the grand accomplishment. A quote I had to memorize as a freshman at the Air Force Academy from General George S. Patton, Jr., gets at this idea, “If you can’t get them to salute when they should salute and wear the clothes you tell them to wear, how are you going to get them to die for their country?” The possibility of dying for my country required a grand vision, but it was lived out in many small daily ways. For example, as a rough calculation, I estimate I spent about 450 hours my freshman year shining shoes. Layer after layer of polish, applied in small circles, buffed gently, and finished with my hot breath and a final buff. Over and over again. You could see your face in the shine. It was small and mundane, but created the consistent action that if called on at the necessary moment could result in the ultimate sacrifice. The vision gives meaning and purpose to the small actions and the small actions culminate in the vision.
That’s the way it works with our faith. That God makes all things new gives meaning and purpose to each small sacrifice, daily prayer, act of generosity, work of mercy, forgiveness of a wrong, or effort at service. Likewise, love, lived out daily in our lives, is our path to the new heaven and new earth. In a surprising twist, love is, in fact, both the grand vision and the small acts. God is love. In our faith, vision and action are one. The transcendent and the immanent are one. So, love one another.