The Sixth Sunday after Easter
[Scripture Readings: Acts. 15: 1-2, 22-29; Rev. 21: 10-23; Jn. 14: 23-29]
This morning’s reading from the book of Revelation presents us with an ideal city that strains our imaginations. It is radiant as a precious jewel. Angels stand on its walls. There is no need for sources of light because it is illuminated by the glory of God. However, there are no people in it; at least not yet. However much it may attract us, it lies beyond us.
The reading from the book of Acts presents another city, or another reality, one that we are more familiar with. Here the reign of God is also present, but there are disagreements and arguments about what the reign of God means. There is the need for councils and debates and decisions that are frequently compromises that attempt to satisfy different opinions, but mean that everyone will need to give up something of what he or she wants. God’s glory is present, but it does not shine out as clearly as it does in the city described by the book of Revelation.
Both cities describe our situation and we live in the tension between the two. Whether we consider society at large, the Church, or our communities and parishes, we have the ideal of a harmonious and peaceful situation reflecting God’s reign on earth that we hope for, and we have the reality that falls short in varying degrees from our ideal. It doesn’t follow that we need to either give up our ideals as being empty dreams, or escape from reality into one of the ways of illusion and denial that are at hand. The challenge is to hold the two dimensions of our lives in a balanced tension that keeps us rooted in the concrete realities of our day to day situations and that at the same time gives us the motivation and hope to bring our situations closer to our ideals.
Left to ourselves we would not be able to meet the challenge, but we have not been left to ourselves. We do not dwell in God’s city yet, but God comes to dwell with us. We have God’s word and we have just heard Jesus’ promise that if we keep his word we will live in his love and he and the Father will dwell with us. We have the Holy Spirit to support and guide us, if we are willing to listen for his voice and respond to God’s call. We have the Eucharist to nourish us, if we are willing to accept the life that incorporation into Christ opens up to us. All of these are the basis for our hope, but since God’s glory does not shine through them as clearly as in the ideal city of the book of Revelation they call us to live in faith. Faith is not our doing, it is God’s gift. Our part is to accept God’s gift and to allow our faith to grow by living in faith. All of this is still an ideal, but it is an ideal that is within our reach.