This Sunday is the great crescendo of Jesus’ message while on earth. We learn the greatest commandment and what he taught as the path to salvation. It was not that we must believe in his death or that a blood had to be spilled to make an “angry God” happy again. No, it was much simpler than that.
Jesus’ message throughout his time on earth was this, ” I give you a new commandment: love one another; just as I have loved you, you also must love one another. By this love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples.” (John 13:34-35) In another passage from the Gospel’s Jesus once again gives us the formula for salvation, “For the first commandment of all is this: ‘Listen, O Israel. The Lord your God is one God. And you shall love the Lord your God from your whole heart, and from your whole soul, and from your whole mind, and from your whole strength. This is the first commandment.’ But the second is similar to it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”” (Mark 12:29-31)
Jesus pointed back to God the Father every time he was asked about salvation. And every time Jesus said that we must love God and love our neighbors. He even gave us a story of the Good Samaritan to illustrate who our neighbors are. (Luke 10:25-37) In this parable, Jesus taught us that everyone we meet is our neighbor. We have an obligation to love everyone around us. And yes, we can love even those who are toxic, abusive, and wish us harm. We just love them from afar.
As you already know, I do not believe the book of Revelations that we read from this Sunday is a book of future prophecy, but one of past events. Many of the Church Fathers agree with this belief and only in the mid-1800’s did this theology change. In our reading Sunday from Revelation, we hear this important passage, ” Then I heard a loud voice call from the throne, ‘You see this city? Here God lives among men. He will make his home among them; they shall be his people, and he will be their God; his name is God-with-them. He will wipe away all tears from their eyes; there will be no more death, and no more mourning or sadness. The world of the past has gone.’” (Revelation 21:3-4)
In this passage I believe that Saint John is telling us that it is possible to have God-with-them in our time here on earth. We can have a time when all tears are wiped away and sorrow and sadness will be gone. We can have this now if only we follow the teaching of Jesus and love God and our neighbors. Love is able to soften the hardest heart and bring about changes in our world never thought possible. If we truly want to live in a world where sorrow, pain, and hatred is gone, then we must be willing to show love and compassion to everyone around us.