Scripture in Depth
Reading I: Acts 14:21-27
On the homeward leg of the first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas revisit the communities they had established on their outward trip. Current scholarship tends to regard the ordination of elders (presbyters) in Acts 14:23 as a Lucan anachronism.
In Paul’s churches, if 1 Corinthians is typical, the ministry was charismatic (1 Cor 12:4-11, 27-30). Here Luke describes an ordination service as he knew it in the Church of his day.
But whether it is the charismatics of the Pauline age, the elders of Luke’s time, or the threefold ministry of the second century and after, the function of all these ministries is to keep the Church on the foundation laid by the original apostles.
When the apostles return to the church in Syrian Antioch, they report, not what they had done, but what “God had done with them.” It was he, not their own missionary strategy, that had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.
Responsorial Psalm: 100:1-2, 3, 5
This is another psalm of exuberant joy. The psalmist exults in God’s mighty acts in creation and in salvation history.
In the earlier part of the Old Testament, the kingdom of God is a timeless truth. Later it seemed that God’s kingship was denied by the disasters that had befallen his people, and, as a result, the hope arose that God would eventually reestablish it. He was always king de jure, but at the end he would become king de facto.
The New Testament message is that this has now happened—by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. So the deeds and works that the Church celebrates are comprised in the salvation history of Christ’s death and resurrection.
God’s kingdom is now inaugurated de facto through the Easter events.
Reading II: Revelation 21:1-5a
This is John the Seer’s vision of the new heaven, the new earth, and the new Jerusalem. These “new things” have been established in principle through the resurrection, and they are anticipated in the life of the Church.
Now God does indeed dwell with his people, though only in the veiled form of the word and the sacraments. Here there is a foretaste of that joy. But not until the end will all tears be wiped away from the eyes of his people.
Mourning and crying and pain are certainly not unknown in the Church, but faith knows that even now all things are being made new.
Gospel: John 13:31-33a, 34-35
It helps make sense of the opening passage, with its five bewildering references to the glorification of God and the Son of man, if we regard it, with some recent commentators, as an early Christian hymn.
It celebrated the enthronement of Christ as Son of man at his exaltation and looked forward to his coming in glory. This explains the shift from the past tense to the future:
Now is the Son of man glorified,
and in him God is glorified [at Christ’s exaltation];
if [since] God has been glorified in him [at the exaltation],
God will also glorify him in himself and glorify him at once [at the parousia, expected shortly].
In taking up this hymn, John has shifted the tenses backwards. The past tenses now refer to the glorifying that has taken place through the Son’s revelation of the Father during his incarnate life, while the future tenses now refer to the glorification that will take place at once in the passion, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Son. Thus, the hymn becomes an expression of the basic themes of the Johannine theology of glory.
At his departure Jesus leaves his disciples a new “commandment” (see the covenant that Jesus bequeaths in Lk 22:29 and the institution of the Last Supper in the Synoptists).
Some have criticized John’s concept of love for being more restricted and introverted than that of the Sermon on the Mount. The Johannine Christ speaks of the mutual love of the Christian community, not of the love even of one’s enemy.
Could it be, though, that the command of love, which, as we have suggested, parallels the institution of the Last Supper in the Synoptists, is speaking explicitly to the agape meal of the early community? For the agape meal was the focal expression of love within the community.
Reginald H. Fuller
**From Saint Louis University