RCL Year C, Easter 5
Acts 11:1-18; Psalm 148; Revelation 21:1-6; Saint John 13:31-35

When in today’s Gospel you hear Christ say to his disciples: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”[1], you could think that today is Maundy Thursday, the day before Christ suffered and was crucified.  That is the day when another portion of the thirteenth chapter of Saint John is proclaimed as the Gospel.  That is the day when Christ gives the new commandment to love one another and demonstrates that commandment in an enacted parable by washing the disciples’ feet.

But today is not Maundy Thursday.  It is the Fifth Sunday of Easter, the season when the Church holds before our eyes not the Lord’s Passion and Crucifixion but the Lord’s Resurrected Life.

And what prepares us for his resurrected life?  To be ready to live that resurrected life we need to know that God made us and gives himself for us on the cross and in the sacrament; we need to be prepared to know how tasteless the unleavened wafer is; we need to know that the sweetness of the sacrament prepares us to do and to undertake what we may wish to avoid, except for him and his love.

To be prepared we need to know what Jesus knew would happen when he met with his disciples for the last time.  He knew that one would betray him.  He knew that he would have to suffer.  But he knew also that the suffering he would voluntarily undertake would open the way of salvation to all who put their trust in him.

And so it is with us.  We’ve met those who have betrayed us and haven’t told the truth about us, and perhaps we’ve suffered consequently.  But we’ve also met those who love us, who love us because Christ loves us, and because of the truth that is in us, and who give themselves for us as we give ourselves to them.  Holy Communion with God and Holy Communion in the church draws both together.  We take in the Communion its grace and strength from God and each other.  But we pledge to give of ourselves to those who need our help, our forgiveness, our understanding, even our ability to sympathize with their suffering.  Communion is a two-way street, and it is more blessed to give than to receive.  Communion is not something we break when others offend us.  When others offend us, we forgive them.  Communion is not something we break when others make decisions that prick our consciences.  We pray for them while keeping our integrity in tact.

Jesus saw all this coming that last night with his disciples. He gave them and us the new commandment to love one another precisely because that commandment alone would prepare us for his resurrected life. He knew he would suffer and that we would suffer, too. The love we have for him, the love we have for each other, alone strengthens us to wade through the suffering we all must endure to make it to the promised land, to make it to his resurrected life.

And all the better prepared we will be for wrong-doing and sin because of our Communion with Christ, Christ who endured the suffering for the glory that lay ahead.  That same Christ feeds us and keeps us, because the love he knew from God his Father he shared and continues to share with all who claim any part of him.

That’s what we need to prepare us to live in resurrection light: the love of God which outlasts and exceeds all distress, even immeasurable distress, all wrong-doing, and every bad thing.  We need to know that the True and Living God prevents death, betrayal, and falsehood from having the last word.  We need to know that the last word is the first word, the Alpha and the Omega, Jesus Christ whose love never ends and whose patience has just begun, “holy Zion’s help forever, and her confidence alone.”[2]

[1] Saint John 13:34.

[2] Hymn 518, Stanza 1.