5-19-2019 5th Sunday of Easter
May 20, 2019
Easter V / C / 2019
Msgr. Patrick S. Brennan
During the Easter season, our second reading is from the Book of Revelation—the final book of the Bible. And like any "final book," we pay close attention to it. In a sense, our reading today brings the Christian story to its climax and fulfillment—we see, in just a few words, what that story is all about—what the Bible is all about.
In fact, there is a kind of "arc" that forms between the first book of the Bible, Genesis, and the final book of the Bible, Revelation—the first creation and the new creation. Genesis begins with a watery chaos, a formless void. Out of that chaos, God creates harmony and good—all created things are declared "good."
But what happens? Sin enters the world, and everything begins to fall apart. The chaos returns—represented by Noah and the flood. The watery chaos is back. But Noah and the ark are God’s first "rescue mission"—God saves a small group of the faithful in the ark. And this small group, with the story of Abraham, becomes Israel, his chosen people.
But time and time again, over the centuries, the "watery chaos" will return. Does God give up on his creation? No. God doesn’t give up. Rescue mission after rescue mission, covenant after covenant, prophet after prophet—God never gives up!
Until the ultimate rescue mission: Jesus Christ—the only begotten Son. In Jesus is the definitive victory over the "water chaos" and disorder of sin. Jesus, in fact, descends down into the very depths of this chaos, and he rises again. From darkness to light. Victory over sin and death. A new world emerges, a new creation rises out of the chaos. Order and peace and reconciliation are restored. As John Milton wrote, Paradise Regained.
I say all of this because that is where our reading from Revelation begins today: "I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more."
A new creation, and "the sea was no more." In other words, the "watery chaos"—the sea and floods were frightening things to ancient peoples—the watery chaos is gone. Order has once again been restored. A new creation.
And what else did John see? "I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down from heaven." A new Jerusalem, coming DOWN from heaven. Note that heaven is coming to us . . . There is no duality—that UP is good and DOWN is bad. That spirit is good and flesh is bad. No! Heaven and earth are being joined, intimately—"as a bride adorned for her husband." The beautiful image of a marriage—a marriage between God and humanity. Heaven and earth.
"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."
Remember the Garden of Eden, before the fall, when God walked in the garden with Adam and Eve?
And so, the arc is complete. From creation in the Book of Genesis—to the new and definitive creation in the Book of Revelation.
And God said, "It is very good."
"Behold, I make all things new."