In this Easter season, as we journey deeper into the mystery of the resurrection, we begin to understand that resurrection is not just a return to a former way of being but it entails something entirely new and as yet unknown and unexperienced. The resurrection of Jesus was the dawning of a new day, the first day of a new creation. In the post-resurrection encounters with the Risen Jesus, the disciples of Jesus are at first uncertain that it is really Jesus. They come to recognize Jesus in his breaking of the bread, in a great catch of fish, in his speaking their name. These things are familiar to them and are ways that they knew Jesus in the past, so that they can finally proclaim, “It is the Lord!” However, there is also something new and unknown, unrecognized in Jesus that requires a measure of faith for them to really know him. He is back in the world but the disciples must have known that he no longer belonged to the world. Looking at the Risen Jesus with his new glorified body, the disciples must have come to know that Jesus belonged to a new world of greater glory.
Perhaps the disciples recalled at that time the mysterious words of Jesus that he had shared with them at the Last Supper: “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and God will glorify him at once. My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.” (Jn13,31ff) Once Jesus is glorified, this old world, wearied by sin, could no longer hold a place for him. Jesus is glorified in the love that he shares with the Father and the cross is the instrument of his glorification. The cross of Christ reveals an endless horizon to love, a love that is powerful and gives life, a love that is eternal and knows no boundaries, a love that is humble and obedient, willing to sacrifice and to serve. In this new love, God’s glory is fully manifested. Jesus reveals to us a love that is stronger than death. This love is a new love, a love that is not self-centered or self-generated but that is God-centered and is a sharing in the very divine nature of God who is love. The love that we are called to share is no longer of the flesh but is of the Spirit of God.
Paul recognized this mystery of new life and new creation when he wrote to the Corinthians: “Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh; even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him so no longer. So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all of this is from God.” (2Cor 5,16ff) Now, as the children of God through baptism, we share in the divine nature of love. As Paul told the Romans: “We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.” (Rom 6,4) Already, through baptism, we share in the newness of life in the Spirit. In the Revelation given to John we have a confirmation of this mystery of new life that flows out of the eternal and merciful love of God: “The One who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” (Rev 21,5) Already, we live in the mystery of this new life in Christ. There is a new heavens and a new earth and a new heavenly Jerusalem, the Church, “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Rev 21,2) We are citizens of this new Jerusalem as members of the Church.
For a new creation, Jesus gives the disciples a new commandment. In the gospel of John, Jesus says to his disciples at the Last Supper: “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 that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn 13,34f) What is new in this commandment? It is the qualifier, “as I have loved you.” The love that we have for one another is not “of the flesh” but it is “of God.” We must live on in the love of Christ (Jn 15,9) and love in the manner in which the Father has loved the Son and the Son has loved us. Our Holy Father, Pope Emeritus Benedict began his encyclical on God’s love with the assertion, “We have come to believe in God’s love: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” (DCE 1) Our encounter with the event of the resurrection and the Risen Christ calls us to make a fundamental decision for our life to believe in God’s love and to follow decisively the way of Christ Jesus. Don’t be afraid or hesitate to make that decision!