To look at the readings for the Fifth Sunday of Easter in a chronological and causal way, begin reflecting on the Gospel.
The scene is the Last Supper. Judas has just left to betray Jesus. Jesus leaves for the Garden of Olives to prepare Himself for crucifixion. This is the greatest moment of suffering in His entire life. His life unfolds in crucifying love.
Over the past three years, His disciples witnessed Jesus feeding the multitude, healing the sick and instructing thousands at a time. All this time, He loved the intimacy of his disciples.
Judas didn’t reciprocate intimacy with Jesus. Even when Judas stole from the common purse, Jesus didn’t expose him. What pain Jesus must have suffered to invest so much love, tenderness and trust in Judas, only to see it all apparently for naught.
When Judas left the Last Supper, 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.” The Son of Man is glorified in sacrificing Himself for the salvation of the whole world and the Father is glorified in accepting His son’s death for the salvation of all.
Once Jesus departs this earth, He wants His followers to pour out their love upon one another and the whole world. “I give you a new commandment: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you should love one another.”
These were His final words before He went out to demonstrate this.
In the eyes of the apostles, what unfolded was not perceived as love but horror and evil. The one they loved and who loved all He met was publicly shamed, scourged and tortured by crucifixion. Only after the Resurrection was the horror and evil seen as love poured out for the salvation of all mankind.
In the second reading, Paul and Barnabas travel through Asia Minor, witnessing to Christ’s death and resurrection. They proclaim the good news of salvation and baptism in Jesus Christ. Out of gratitude for Christ, they are willing to suffer many hardships in proclaiming the good news of salvation.
“It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” Thus they encouraged their disciples to persevere in the faith. As their disciples suffered to live the faith, their generosity in suffering inspired others to become disciples. Hence, suffering for the faith energized new converts who returned the favor. Christ’s love spread through suffering with their Master.
When Paul and Barnabas return to Antioch, they share with their supporters the joy of evangelizing new people. The door to the Gentiles was opened. What joy that brought to the risen Christ to see His followers suffering so joyously for the spread of the faith.
In the second reading, from the Book of Revelation, John, the Beloved Disciple, gives us a peek into the future in highly symbolic language. “I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.”
He then 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.””
This goes back to the covenant God made with Abraham and all of his descendants. This has come to pass because of Christ’s death, resurrection and the sending of the Holy Spirit. Through baptism, we have been incorporated into the intimacy of the Most Holy Trinity. God’s dwelling in mankind with love brings others to know God’s love.
God’s dwelling in man brings suffering. Take the case of parents who have faithfully brought up their children in the practice of the faith. Many times when those children go to college, their faith pinches them. They may resent that their parents “shackled” them with faith. They find out that their faith hinders their freedom to sin. They sometimes resent their parents for the challenges of faith, especially when their peers aren’t practicing their faith at all.
This is when the parents begin to feel the price of suffering love. On the one hand, they don’t want to see their children lose the faith. On the other hand, they don’t want to break contact with their children whom they love.
These parents experience some of what Jesus felt when Judas walked out of His life only to betray Him. Here the parents must pray that they witness with patient love and affection, instead of resorting to anger and resentment. When parents pray in this way, their children see their behavior as true love. The argument of patient love and intercessory prayer precedes all other arguments.
Nurture your prayer life with the vision of heavenly glory found in chapters 4 and 5 of the Book of Revelation. With that as the energy that drives you, there will be no suffering that can compare with the presence of your sometimes — wayward children in heaven with you for all eternity. Your suffering love for your children is more powerful than Satan’s attempts to lead them away.