Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota

Environmental Stewardship Commission (MEESC) Lectionary Reflection Year C, Fifth Sunday of Easter, Gospel

John 13:31-35

At the last supper, when Judas had gone out, Jesus said, "Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, 'Where I am going, you cannot come.' I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

Reflection on John 13:31-35 by John G. Gibbs, PhD

To "glorify" is to remove layers of confusion and lack of clarity until the essence of the matter at hand is disclosed. As the Last Supper nears its conclusion, both Father and Son are "glorified" in such a way as to show that they are one in holy love.

The betrayer had just departed, "and it was night." Peter was about to promise what he could not deliver, at least not until years later. Between these developments, and in sharpest contrast to them, the gospel writer places the love of God's People. "Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another" (13:34). The Upper Room Discourse (John 14-17) follows, then betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion.

At that time, when the Church's formation was only a bare beginning, the gospel writer focused quite naturally on the love within that upper room of the disciples for one another. But now centuries later, within "the one holy catholic and apostolic" Church, we cannot forget the wide inclusive scope of God's love that has embraced the entire creation. We know from prophet after prophet that God's great "Shalom" includes lions and sheep brought into one community of peace. We know that creation-community and Church-community are bound in eager anticipation of being liberated together from decay (Rom. 8:21). Indeed, the author of this very gospel was looking in this same direction: "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself" (Jn. 12:32).

In his nearly incredible report out of South Africa, No Future Without Forgiveness (New York: Image Doubleday, 1999), Archbishop Desmond Tutu's cosmic context of holy love is unmistakable: "There is a movement, not easily discernible, at the heart of things to reverse the awful centrifugal force of alienation, brokenness, division, hostility, and disharmony. God has set in motion a centripetal process, a moving toward the center, toward unity, harmony, goodness, peace and justice, a process that removes barriers. Jesus says, 'And when I am lifted up from the earth I shall draw everyone to myself' as he hangs from His cross with outflung arms, thrown out to clasp all, everyone, and everything, in a cosmic embrace, so that all, everyone, everything, belongs" (p. 265).

"Cosmic embrace." There's our answer to the sort of "purity laws" and taboos, even in Leviticus, that bear no gospel for man or beast. In cosmic embrace we rediscover the depth and scope of holy love.

John Gibbs, a retired theologian, attends Trinity Episcopal Church, Park Rapids, MN. He originally wrote this reflection in 2001. John and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to John Gibbs or any MEESC member, or mail them to:
MEESC Holy Trinity Church Box 65 Elk River, MN 55330-0065 USA

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