Thursday, April 25, 2013

More About the Heavenly Jerusalem

I wrote last week about the Heavenly Jerusalem described in several of the Sundays of the Easter Season’s Second Reading from the Book of Revelation. In this upcoming Sunday’s Second Reading, John sees a new heaven and a new earth and the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven: "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away...I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. (Revelation 21a:1-2a)
This reference to new heavens and a new earth is also mentioned in 2 Peter 3:13: "But according to his promise we await new heavens and a new earth in which justice dwells."
"Justice" in its Biblical sense means "right relationship." The original Greek word for this gets translated as either "justice" or "righteousness" (cf. "rightness") There may be a legal aspect to this, but the Biblical meaning of justice goes beyond legal issues to relational ones. It is an interesting exercise to ask if we are living in right relationship with God and others? Another related Scripture passage is Hosea 6:8: "God has shown you what is good and what the Lord expects of you: to do justice [right relationships], to love with mercy, and to walk humbly with your God."
What is it about "right relationships" that Jesus reveals to us? He, also mentions relationship with God and with others and he says that the greatest commandment is to love God with everything and to love others as oneself. (See Matthew 22:35–40, Mark 12:28–34.e) But he goes even further, and we hear this in this Sunday’s upcoming Gospel: He says "A New Commandment I give you: love one another as I have loved you." (John 13:34)
The way Jesus loves us is sacrificially (as revealed on the Cross where he is like the Lamb slain, another favorite image of the Book of Revelation) and Jesus loves us without end (revealed to us in the Resurrection where he has conquered all that opposes love and justice).
I really wish I had the talent and time to write a comprehensive book about the Love of God. Everything in our life of Christ is related to this love, which is not mere sentimentalism, but an almost fierce and certainly all-giving love on God’s part in relationship to us.
Since the Gospel of John this Sunday is about the New Commandment of Christ and it is proclaimed in the Easter Season, we can rightly conclude that this sacrificial and unending love of God, shown to us by Christ Jesus, is the animating spirit of the Resurrection. To begin living even now the Risen life of Christ means to live in his love and have his love live in us.
I can also detect this new Risen way of love in the Second Reading for this Sunday in the Book of Revelation 21:2: "I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband."

The New Jerusalem, which is all the redeemed who are loved and saved by Christ, is the Bride--the Church for whom Christ, the Bridegroom, gave his life and she in turn gives her all to him. The Catechism has this magnificent passage:
"The entire Christian life bears the mark of the spousal love of Christ and the Church. Already Baptism, the entry into the People of God, is a nuptial mystery; it is so to speak the nuptial bath which precedes the wedding feast, the Eucharist. Christian marriage in its turn becomes an efficacious sign, the sacrament of the covenant of Christ and the Church." (#1617)
It is appropriate that the Eucharist is mentioned as a wedding feast between the New Jerusalem and Christ; every earthly Mass participates in the eternal Liturgy of Heaven, the New Jerusalem
I have more to say about the Heavenly Jerusalem next week.