It’s important that today’s second reading appear in a Sunday liturgy. This text from the book of Revelation is one of the many readings proposed for funerals, but it’s not always chosen, so it’s good that we hear it today. It’s just so beautiful. We can apply it to our loved ones who have left us, and we can remember that it applies also to us, that it is what awaits us as well. This beautiful text is clearly a teaching on Heaven, the “new heaven and new earth” that are to come. We are blessed to live our lives in the knowledge of it.
But is it only about the world that is to come? No, it is about the Kingdom of God, which, as we know, though it will only find its fulfilment in Heaven, is already present here on earth, in the Church. “The Kingdom of God is in your midst.” Lk 17,21 Granted, it is very discreet, but it is here. We’ve all seen fleeting signs of it. One of the most striking signs of the Kingdom of God in our midst is the one alluded to in today’s gospel. In the New Testament in general, we are called as Christians to two kinds of love. One is the call to universal love, the love of all people, and more specifically, the love of all people who are in any kind of need or poverty. The beautiful love of compassion. The other love to which we are clearly called, in particular in the gospel and the letters of John, is the mutual love of Christians. In the terms of today’s gospel: “Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” And Jesus adds this wonderful claim: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jn 13,34.35 To the extent that we exhibit mutual love as Christians, we will be evangelizers. People will be drawn to us, they will be drawn to the light of our gospel, because of the love we will have for one another. That is an extraordinary thing.
There is a whole lot of mutual love at St. Mary’s Parish. I see it everywhere, all the time. And every time I do, I lift up to God a prayer of thanksgiving. Because it is a beautiful thing to see, in and of itself, but also because I know that this very evident mutual attachment is a significant part, I am convinced, of what makes us a truly evangelizing parish. People approach us for all kinds of reasons, but one of the reasons they stay with us is the abundance of mutual love they find here. I give thanks to God for this, which is truly remarkable when you think about it, given the dimensions of our parish which, in principle, should result in urban anonymity, not mutual love. I give thanks for it, and I pray to God that he will maintain the mutual love that is here at St. Mary’s, and that he will make it grow.
When all is said and done, in the Christian world, at least in the Johannine writings, it is all about love: the love of the Father for the Son and for us, the love of the Son for us, and ultimately, the love we have for the needy of every description, and for one another. It’s all about love – at least it should be.
By the grace of God, may simple love abound amongst us, for our good, but also that those who are not of our flock might be drawn to this most eloquent indicator of the Kingdom of God that is in our midst, and that is intended for the benefit of the whole world.
P.S. This week and next, the priests of the archdiocese of Vancouver will be on retreat at the Benedictine Abbey in Mission. Please pray for them, that God will inspire them in this retreat, and give wings to their ministry.