April 24, 2016 — Fifth Sunday of Easter
We often speak of Christ calling us to discipleship. The readings on this Fifth Sunday of Easter address that discipleship and what it means to each of us. When the U.S. Bishops issued a pastoral letter on stewardship, they titled it “Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response.” Just as today’s readings affirm that idea of discipleship, each of us must strive to achieve it.
The First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles recounts more about the evangelization and missions of Sts. Paul and Barnabas. Paul and Barnabas are excellent examples of what it means to be disciples of Christ. However, they want to do more than just be disciples; they want to make disciples as well. As they pass through the various cities they visited, today’s Scripture points out, “They strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith.”
Paul and Barnabas wanted to do much more than gain conversions to the faith; they had a passion to make disciples. That is a passion we should share. However, it begins with us becoming disciples ourselves, and then recognizing that part of being a disciple is recruiting and forming other disciples.
The Second Reading from Revelations reveals a vision, an understanding, which came to St. John. In the final verse God declares that He makes all things new. This implies the completion of God’s plan for us, but again we must play a part by striving to be good disciples. In one of his letters, St. Paul asserts, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
To become “new” requires conversion. That conversion includes embracing Christ as our Savior, and our commitment to be His disciple as good stewards. Once God makes things new, they remain new. Note that God speaks in the present tense. The Lord does not say, “I have made things new,” or “I will make things new.” He states clearly that He is making things new, right now — today.
The Gospel Reading from St. John answers any questions we may have about what is expected of us if we are to be disciples of Christ. Jesus says, “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 you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” In those terms discipleship is quite basic and simplistic: to truly be a disciple we must love one another. That is it.
The Roman Emperor Tertullian, more than 100 years after the crucifixion of Christ, commented about the Christians whom he had witnessed, “See how they love one another.” In love we find satisfaction and comfort. Not just being loved, but by loving. That is what Christ asks of us in discipleship. Although it is not involved, we do understand what a challenge it can be. That is the challenge of being a disciple, of being a steward, of being a follower of Christ. Love one another!