“Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD, and let your faithful ones bless you,” wrote King David. “Let them discourse of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might” (Ps 145:11-12). This is an overview of sorts of today’s other readings, each of which has something to say about those who are the people of God and disciples of Jesus Christ.
St. Luke’s account of the early Church depicts the evangelistic efforts of the first Christians, beginning at Pentecost (Acts 2), and then continued on by St. Paul’s missionary journeys. Paul and Barnabas had preached the Gospel in Derbe (in Asia Minor), shortly after having been stoned and nearly killed in Lystra (Acts 14:19-20). Despite such severe challenges, Paul and Barnabas encouraged the other disciples, explaining they would have to “undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
There is a clear echo of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount: “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Mt 7:21). The will of the Father is to proclaim the kingdom and to preach the Gospel. At times, this Good News will be received in peace and with joy, but on other occasions it will be met with disdain and even violence. Regardless of these obstacles, Paul and others discoursed of the glory of the kingdom and spoke of God’s might revealed in Jesus Christ, the Risen Lord (see Acts 13:16-41).
Those first Christians, of course, had initially preached the Gospel in Jerusalem, the holy city that had witnessed the arrest, torture and crucifixion of Jesus. Before his ascension, Jesus had told the apostles that after they had received the power of the Holy Spirit, they were to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, and then Judea and Samaria, and then “to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:6-8). The Acts of the Apostles describes this going forth into what was then the end of the earth.
But the final two chapters of the New Testament describe a different end — The End — the culmination of history and the revelation of the new heaven and the new earth. And there was “the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God” (Rv 21:1-2).
This new Jerusalem is connected to the Church, as it is an image of the glorious truth that God, having made all things new, will dwell with mankind in perfect peace and beatitude: “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people … ”
This dwelling among men began with the Incarnation, when the “Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us,” as John wrote at the start of his Gospel. Because the Word came and revealed himself, “and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14).
And how was this glory made known? As today’s Gospel indicates, it was through the Incarnate Word’s passion and resurrection. After Judas had fled the upper room in order to betray him, Jesus told the disciples, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God glorified in him.” The cross reveals both the glory of the Son and his perfect, sacrificial love. The new commandment of love is the Word’s saving gift to the Church.
The Father sent the Son to impart divine life and love, and the Church continues to preach the Gospel, which is the good news of that same life and love.
Carl E. Olson is the editor of Catholic World Report.