The second reading for the Fifth Sunday of Easter is one of my favorites. We hear from John that there is a new heaven and a new earth because the former ones have passed away. God, we hear, dwells with his people.
Throughout the Easter Season we focus Christ's victory over death. We focus on how Christ put every enemy under his feet, the last of which is death.
When I was younger I use to think that meant that everything in this world is taken care of and we don't need to worry about it. In short, it didn't seem to matter what happened now because Christ has fought every battle and won, so I was good to go.
What I didn't understand as a child is that when we speak about Christ's victory over death we're not talking about us living on this earth in our current state forever. Rather, we're expressing our hope in a new reality. The reality that awaits us at the end of time, the reality that John is trying to give voice to in the second reading. We are expressing the hope that was first expressed at our baptism when we were made Sons and Daughters of God.
The Collect for this Sunday asks "Almighty ever-living God, constantly accomplish the Paschal Mystery within us, that those you were pleased to make new in Holy Baptism may, under your protective care, bear much fruit and come to the joys of life eternal."
Through baptism we are given the ability to be with Christ eternally. The victory over death was not a victory that destroyed this life, but rather it was a victory that transformed us in this life and gives us the hope of eternal life with Christ.
"I John," the second reading starts "saw a new heaven and a new earth…" At the end of time, when our final destiny is realized, we will (hopefully) see that new heaven and new earth. What that means for our life now however is important. We are called, by virtue of our baptism, to bear fruit in this world. We are called to love God and love our neighbor now. We are called to do works of mercy now. We are called to build up the Kingdom of God now.
The Gospel for this Sunday includes Jesus giving his disciples a new commandment: "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just I as I have loved you, you should also love one another."
Easter is not our free pass to do whatever we please. Rather, it is a call to renewal and a call to bring about God's mercy and goodness, radically displayed on the Cross and at the empty tomb, to the world around us.
Christ's love, fully seen at Easter, is a constant reminder and pattern for us. Yes, at the end of time there will be a new heaven and a new earth. Yes, we hope that through our baptism and participation in the Sacraments we will be able to join Christ there. However, we are called to start modeling that new heaven and new earth now. We are called to model that mercy and love that redeemed us at Easter and continues to redeem us in baptism.
Easter is not an excuse to do nothing, it is a call to do everything.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
Rebecca Spellacy is the Associate Director of Liturgy for the Office of Formation of Discipleship in the Archdiocese of Toronto.