A reflection on the 5th Sunday of Easter
First reading: Acts 14:21-27
After they had proclaimed the good news to that city and made a considerable number of disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch. They strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” They appointed presbyters for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith. Then they travelled through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia. After proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work they had now accomplished. And when they arrived, they called the church together and reported what God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.
Second Reading: Revelation 21:1-5
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them [as their God]. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away.”
Gospel: John 13:31-35
When he had left, Jesus said, “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 he will glorify him at once. My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. You will look for me, and as I told the Jews, ‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so now I say it to you. 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.”
God wants us to be with him
The new Jerusalem described in the second reading is a symbol of the Church, the body of Christ reunited with her bridegroom, Jesus. This reunion reverses the divorce that took place after the fall of Adam and Eve and teaches us that God wants us to be with him.
As if knowing that God’s people might need a little help understanding this vision, a great voice proclaimed, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them.”
Entering the Kingdom of God
So how do we become part of this new Jerusalem? We become the Church, the body of Christ. St Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort wrote that Mary, Mother of the Church and Queen of All Hearts, formed Jesus, the head of the body of Christ. And as Mother, she forms the members of that body too (SM12).
How does she do this? Montfort draws from the teaching of St Augustine in referring to Mary as the mould of God. She formed Jesus perfectly in her womb, and will form us perfectly with features of Christ, if we allow ourselves to be broken down, not chiselled away, and our molten souls poured into the perfect mould of Jesus to be formed by the Holy Spirit (SM 16-18). But allowing ourselves to be broken down and formed by the Holy Spirit does not come easy.
Community as the scaffolding of our spiritual lives
In the first reading, Paul and Barnabas sought to assure and strengthen the spirits of the early Christians, telling them that “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.”
But that was not all they did. Paul and Barnabas also gave structure and form to the early Church: “They appointed presbyters for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith.” They knew that they had to set up the community so that it would sustain itself long after they left, and established leaders and structures in the community to facilitate growth and continuity.
From a young age, St Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort learned the value of community. Montfort himself was a member of lay associations, and even obtained permission to start the Confraternity of Slavery of the Holy Virgin while still a seminarian. As a priest, he saw lay associations and confraternities as a means to sustaining the mission long after the mission had ended, in the hopes of nourishing the lay vocations that drew people closer to God.
A single commandment as the rule of life for Christian community
Lay associations are, of course, imperfect. Some of those started by Montfort flourished, while others came to a natural end. Even his religious congregations faced challenges from within, including false accusations and slander that sought to undermine the superior.
Jesus seemed to know that we, his Church, would need guidance after he was gone. Speaking after Judas Iscariot left to betray him, Jesus said, “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.”
Montfort may have written much advice and given plenty of direction to his associations, but Jesus, in one single commandment, gave us the ultimate rule for living in community.
St Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, founder of religious congregations and formator of the laity devoted to the service of the church, pray for us!
· How have we allowed ourselves to be formed by the Holy Spirit?
· How have we been Christ to members of our communities, our family?
Brian Ooi, Montfortian Gabrielite Associates
Do you want to know Jesus, living in Mary? Is God calling you to a life consecrated to His Son, through his most Amiable Daughter? Come and see, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit https://www.montfortcentre.org/montfortian-associates-movement