During the fifty days of the Easter season, we celebrate with joy the Resurrection of Jesus. Since Jesus, by His Resurrection, has opened for us the way to a new life, we also celebrate with hope our future resurrection. Saint Paul wrote: Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep…. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Corinthians 15: 20-22).
We profess in the Nicene Creed that we look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. The resurrection of the dead is closely associated with Christ’s Second Coming. The Church teaches that the resurrection of the dead will precede the Last Judgment. Christ will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his Kingdom will have no end (Nicene Creed).
This coming Sunday, the Fifth Sunday of Easter, we will hear in the second reading from the book of Revelation Saint John’s vision of a new heaven and a new earth and of a new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God (21:1-5). This new heaven and new earth refers to the mysterious transformation of humanity and the world that will take place at the Second Coming of Jesus at the end of time. The universe will be perfectly re-established in Christ. As Saint Paul teaches: God will bring all things in the heavens and on earth into one under Christ’s headship (Ephesians 1:10).
We are called to live in hope of the new heaven and the new earth. We do not know when the Second Coming will occur nor do we know the way in which the universe will be transformed. It remains a mystery. Yet, we believe, as the Church teaches, that the form of this world, distorted by sin, is passing away, and we are taught that God is preparing a new dwelling and a new earth in which righteousness dwells, in which happiness will fill and surpass all the desires of peace arising in our hearts (Gaudium et spes 39, Second Vatican Council).
I mention these things since sometimes we might feel overwhelmed by the weakness, miseries, violence, injustices, sufferings, and misfortunes of earthly life and human history. Some may even adopt a fatalistic view, become indifferent, believing that nothing can change and that there is no sense of hoping. This is not the Christian perspective. We believe that God entered the world and human history in His Son who continues to be in our midst. Through His Church, the Lord continues to establish His kingdom of truth, justice, love, and peace in time and space, the Kingdom that will come in its fullness at the end of time, after the universal judgment.
Our expectation of the new heaven and the new earth not only gives us hope, it is also a stimulus for our engagement with the world. We must not fall into the extremes of isolation or secularism. The Second Vatican Council emphasized our duty to penetrate and perfect the temporal order with the spirit of the Gospel (Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity 5). With hope of the new heaven and the new earth, we can walk courageously in this life, cooperating with the Lord in building up His Kingdom through our works of mercy, justice, and love.
Finally, in his vision of the new heaven and new earth. Saint John saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband (Revelation 21:2). The new Jerusalem appears as a bride because it symbolizes the Church, the Bride of Christ. This feminine symbol of the Church as Bride has deep meaning. It expresses the Church’s mystery as loved by Christ the Bridegroom who gives His life for His Bride. It also expresses our calling, both men and women, through the Church to be the Bride of Christ, to love Him in return. We are called to bear witness to the love of the Bridegroom in the world. In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus says: As I have loved you, so you also should love one another (John 13:34). This love of Christ and His Bride will shine forth at His Second Coming. May it shine forth even now through our witness, our “I do” to Christ the Bridegroom, our “Amen” to the Father’s love, and our “Yes” to the Holy Spirit’s grace!