We should all find it interesting, informative, and challenging that the four scripture extracts this Sunday continue last week’s emphasis on the universality of the Risen Christ.

ACTS 14: 21b – 27
PSALM 145 (OR 144)
REVELATION 21: 1 – 5a
JOHN 13: 31 – 33a. 34 – 35

This aspect of universality was welcomed by the Gentiles – especially those living in the Jewish Diaspora where they were particularly shunned.  However, it was unwelcome by the Establishment of Judaism who were still living within the framework that only Jews were especially (exclusively?) favoured by the Lord.  They saw themselves as superior beings!  (Hello, all you ‘old-time’ Catholics, and contemporary sections of  fundamentalist, reborn, Pentecostals.)

In addition, during your reflection bear in mind that (1) the Revelation reading appears towards the end chapters which are particularly focussed on the Second Coming of the Christ,  (2) that, in general, John’s version of the Gospel seeks, primarily, to teach that the Jesus who gave the SIGNS is himself, as the Risen Christ, THE SIGN that God the Father is glorified in the PRESENT TIME – and (3)  for the first time, the concept that the CHURCH (the assembly of believers who are baptised in the name of Jesus Christ) is spreading all through the world (becoming universal – note, in ACTS,  the specific naming of all the places visited!).

So, with  this in mind take note of  – (a) “how good is the Lord to all, compassionate to all his creatures” {THE PSALM}: (b) there is a “new heaven and a new earth … the dwelling of God is with men … I make all things new” {REVELATION}: (c) “the door of faith to the Gentiles”: {ACTS}: and (d) “and him God is glorified …. all men will know.” {GOSPEL}

Here we could valuably spend a little time noting that some basic structures are given to the Church: “they had appointed elders for them in every Church.”  It is unclear  what specific office – in contemporary terms – these elders enjoyed?  It is doubtful that they were deacons or presbyters but they held the position of LEADERSHIP in the church communities, and did so in order to assist their brothers and sisters to “continue in the faith.” (a repeat from last week) Do not overlook the fact that the apostles “committed them to the Lord in whom they believed.”  THE LORD was the Risen Christ, and belief in this was the acid test.

At this time in the early Church faith in the RESURRECTION was the beginning and end – and it should be the same for us.  Nothing else really matters!  The elders would baptise, lay hands, preach, and care for (including the anointing with oil) the sick.  Yet, the full sacramental ‘system’ as we know it was unknown.  Certainly, the Sacrament  of Reconciliation and the Eucharistic Real Presence  had yet to become a normal part of Church life.  People did not have to toddle off to ‘confession’ every week or month!  I suppose we could ask ourselves how those first Church communities actually survived?  What about The Mass?  Indications are that there were gatherings that reproduced, in some way, the Lord’s Last Supper – but what form these took are far, far, from clear.

Those early communities flourished because of the central belief in and of THE RESURRECTION  and, as the Gospel extract tells us, the NEW COMMANDMENT – LOVE ONE ANOTHER.  So, there is a danger which belongs to the situation when and where the plot is lost.

Times change, and forms of worship develop (never remain static – and no one form is the ultimate), but the basic message for us today remains the same as it was in the times of Paul, Barnabas, and John.  THIS MESSAGE is clearly and powerfully stated in our extract from Revelation …. the RISEN LORD is the embodiment of the fact that “the dwelling of God is with men.  He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them.”

Is this OUR resurrection faith?  God with us, God on our side, wiping away every tear, he makes all things new.

What is our faith really dependant on: ritualistic rules, customs (e g the celebrant of the Eucharist should face East!!  Do we actually know – or care – what point of the compass Jesus faced at the Last Supper), novenas,  and whether we must always wash only men’s feet on Holy Thursday?  Do not lose the plot!