5-26-2019 6th Sunday of Easter
May 28, 2019
Easter VI / 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.
Some commentators say that 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 sin enters the world, and that harmony is destroyed. God sends "rescue missions" to help humanity, until he finally sends his Son. Through his death and Resurrection, harmony and reconciliation are restored, paradise regained, a new creation—and the Bible comes to an end.
And that is where we pick up our reading today. We are at the climax of it all, and it speaks of a city, a holy city, coming down from heaven—like a bride adorned for her husband.
Notice the focus on a city—cities are important in the Bible—starting with Cain, "the founder of cities." You have Ur, Nineveh, Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah, Tyre and Sidon, Shechem, Shiloh, Gilead, Athens, Antioch, Rome, and so on.
But the most important of all? Jerusalem. The City of Peace. King David’s city, perched on Mt. Zion. Jerusalem was the home of the Temple—a sacred place, the dwelling of God, where heaven touched earth. God chose to live in Jerusalem, we might say, making it the greatest city of all.
And as the city of God’s dwelling, Jerusalem was to be the "light to the nations," the city to which all the tribes go up, the city of right worship, right order, a place of reconciliation—where, in Isaiah’s vision, swords are beat into plowshares, spears into pruning hooks. And from Jerusalem, instruction goes out, to all the nations. That was God’s plan. From Jerusalem to the world.
And did it happen? No. The beautiful vision of Isaiah was a dream, a prophecy, looking ahead to the future—to the coming of the Messiah. It is not for nothing that Jesus died in Jerusalem, that Jesus rose in Jerusalem, that the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles in Jerusalem.
And so, from Jerusalem, the early Christians went forth, to start churches all over the Mediterranean—proclaiming Christ crucified, the light to the nations. The vision of Isaiah fulfilled.
Against all of this background, we come to today’s reading. What does John see? The New Israel in its fullness, the Church, God’s promise fulfilled.
And what does this fullness look like?
1) First of all, it is beautiful: harmony, light, the new Jerusalem of love and peace.
2) Second, it is a gift! It is God’s work, not ours—not built with our hands—it is grace.
3) And finally, and most remarkably, there is no temple in the city. Why? Because the city itself is the temple. Because all is good, all is peace, all is reconciliation, all is love. "The city had no need of the sun"—it shined with the glory of God.
And so the Bible comes to an end—a beautiful ending, paradise regained, creation fulfilled.