FIRST READING (They called the Church together and reported what God had done with them.)
A reading from the Acts of the Apostles (14:21-27)
After Paul and Barnabas had proclaimed the good news to that city and made a considerable number of disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch. They strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” They appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith. Then they traveled through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia. After proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work they had now accomplished. And when they arrived, they called the church together and reported what God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. —The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM (145:8-9, 10-11, 12-13)
R. I will praise your name forever, my king and my God. (Cf. Ps 145:1)
The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness. The Lord is good to all and compassionate toward all his works. (R)
Let all your works give you thanks, O Lord, and let your faithful ones bless you. Let them discourse of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might. (R)
Let them make known your might to the children of Adam, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. Your kingdom is a kingdom for all ages, and your dominion endures through all generations. (R)
SECOND READING (God will wipe every tear from their eyes.)
A reading from the Book of Revelation (21:1-5a)
Then I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 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 dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God. 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.” —The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
GOSPEL ACCLAMATION (Jn 13:34)
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I give you a new commandment, says the Lord: love one another as I have loved you. (R)
GOSPEL (I give you a new commandment: love one another.)
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John (13:31-33a, 34-35)
When Judas had left them, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and God will glorify him at once. My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. 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.” —The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
Over many years as a priest and missionary, I have led retreats and given courses on the missionary journeys of Paul and Barnabas, and one of the more fascinating parts of these studies has been to share an atlas or map of the routes they followed through Asia Minor and into Europe. A simple glance makes one marvel at how they managed to get around to so many places. But the route we heard in our first reading opens us to another avenue of contemplation into the indomitable spirit that Paul and Barnabas brought to their ministry.
While a quick look at a map on where Derbe was located, the city where they are at the opening of the passage, it would have been easier to return “home” to Antioch by direct land and sea. However, these apostles to the Gentiles decided to retract their steps through all the places they had previously visited, seeing the communities they had established and to encourage them in the faith. But this would also open them to hostilities going to places where they had met strong resistance and faced persecution.
Whenever I think about these missionary journeys, even knowing my own preferences for travel – after all, don’t most of us seek non-stop flights to destinations? – I am too aware of the temptation to also avoid places that bring unpleasant memories back, or that are marked by experiences that may have hurt me. We all do this.
For us the virtue of PERSEVERENCE in the face of hostility or challenges is very difficult. It’s a virtue that is often easiest to avoid in life. Unlike valor or heroism, perseverance – or courage or fortitude, other virtues often mixed in with perseverance, while often admired and celebrated as being among the crowning virtues of the Christian life, they demand a deeply-rooted faith to stick to a difficult path or journey when we would rather do something else or follow an easier way.
But we see in the example of Paul and Barnabas, and in reflection on the life of St. Titus Brandsma who we celebrate in a special way today – we see how perseverance can be HEROISM. Rather than allow himself to be moved to a safer or quieter house of his community, giving him protection from being arrested and eventually jailed, St. Titus faced his trials, imprisonment and eventual death with perseverance that was heroic.
His example leads us to the Gospel that speaks about glorification through suffering. Our Gospel begins: “When Judas left them, Jesus said, ‘Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.”
From these ominous words we must move to the end of the story. Jesus knew what the end would be when he spoke these words at the Last Supper. Here one of his close collaborators was about to betray him – for money. For most of us, this would be very difficult to accept. It would bring hurt, pain and anger. But because Jesus knew the “end” of the story, he turns this betrayal into glorification. He lifts his eyes to the Father, seeing what his obedience and faithfulness would accomplish through his suffering, and this gave him the power and strength to endure pain and suffering – the same pain, suffering and humiliations that St. Titus Brandsma endured to his death, all without ever losing faith.
This is another powerful lesson for us in this Fifth Week of Easter. We must always see that the glorification of the Risen Lord was made through betrayal, suffering and death. Inspired by this, we should learn to see how we should strive to see the potential that our own sufferings have when they are united to those of the Savior. It reminds me of the part in St. Titus’ life, while imprisoned, how a glance at the face of Christ the Pantocrator gave him hope and solace, and the will to face what he would eventually endure.
Often during this past Lent as I read the biography of St. Titus Brandsma, I kept wondering how I would react to the hurts, betrayals and sufferings he faced. How would I react when faced with the betrayal from someone I loved? Of the many trials and challenges we face in life, this may be perhaps the most difficult to accept. However, every time we are mistreated by another we are given an opportunity to glorify God and further the Kingdom of Heaven by forgiving, and uniting our suffering with Christ’s, as well as offering mercy, as St. Titus did to his executioner.
We are called to be witnesses to “a new heaven and a new earth,” “a new Jerusalem,” or in the Gospel to follow “a new commandment.” This is a call to an eschatological reality. The Greek word for “new” [καινός] that is used here indicates the extraordinary character of this newness. It is an act of God.
In the Gospel today, Jesus instructs his disciples to “love one another.” Here he speaks of agape, a love that requires total commitment and trust. It is the kind of love with which God loves us, a love that should be the model of the love we have for others. It is also a call for perseverance even in the face of suffering – as this will lead to glorification.
“This is how all will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.”
Celebrant: Brothers and sisters, Jesus has taught us that by our love for one another, everyone will know that we are his disciples. Filled with such love, we now turn to the Father in prayer, confident that he will hear us.
READER: For the Church scattered over the face of the earth, striving to give witness to the coming of the kingdom with courageous faith and works of love, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For our local Catholic community striving to live out the Lord’s command of love, even in the midst of misunderstandings, challenges and difficulties, that we always pray in solidarity for each other, loving each other and forgiving each other in the example of the Risen Lord, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For modern day apostles and missionaries like Paul and Barnabas, that they may continue to strengthen the spirits of all the faithful and help them to persevere in the faith throughout life’s hardships, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: That we may shine as followers of Jesus by the love we have one for another, following the example of the newly canonized martyr St. Titus Brandsma, whose love enabled him to lay down his life for his friends in the example of the Risen Lord, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: [SMC only: For the repose of the soul of Raphael Martin D’Aquino on his 3rd anniversary of death, and] For the intentions we carry in our hearts, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
CELEBRANT: God our Father, in raising your Son to glory, you promise us eternal splendor. As we bring our prayers to you in love, let our charity build the new Jerusalem. We ask this through Christ, Our Lord. (all) AMEN.